The 571 Grill & Draft House in New Carlisle, Ohio, has a pretty inconspicuous online presence. It’s been featured for its burgers on a local blog and its Yelp page had just a few reviews after four years on the restaurant review site.
But that’s all changed since a New York Times article came out over the weekend about a white nationalist, Tony Hovater, worked there. The Washington Post followed up Wednesday that Hovater was fired from his job at 571 Grill. His wife and brother-in-law were also fired from the restaurant.
After Saturday’s article and the backlash to what many considered a normalization of neo-Nazis, 571 Grill got caught up in the clash between supporters claiming Hovater can believe what he wants to believe and those praising the establishment for letting him go.
A look at the restaurant’s Yelp page shows how the place became something of a battleground.
A four-star review from Greg. B in Long Island City, NY, came in Thursday praising the burger joint for its position on Hovater — not for its food or service. “Great job firing Nazis who worked there. If I someday pass thru will check your place out,” he wrote.
Jennifer P. from nearby Dayton, OH, doled out five stars and said, “Nice rotating selection of beer and the pizza and burgers are good. But what I love most about this place is that the owner recently fired an admitted Nazi sympathizer after reading an article about him in the NYT. Lots of negative reviews have coincidentally been posted here and elsewhere; don’t believe it. Propaganda from a group of hateful dirtbags. It’s 2017 and we’re actually debating on whether Nazis are decent people,” she wrote.
Others expressed disgust at the restaurant’s decision to fire Hovater for his beliefs.
Dozens of one-star reviews came in Wednesday and Thursday. More than 40 of those reviews were flagged on Yelp as “not currently recommended,” meaning they aren’t counted towards the business’ overall rating.
A few addressed the NYT article backlash while others were dressed up as real posts about bad quality food and service.
The online hate hasn’t destroyed 571 Grill’s online reputation entirely — it still holds four stars despite the barrage of troll reviews.
When we reached out to the restaurant about the Yelp hate, they referred us to a statement they gave Wednesday in TippNews Daily, a local online news outlet. The owner made clear the business doesn’t share any of Hovater’s views and doesn’t tolerate hate. The statement said the article about Hovater illustrated “some very disturbing images and thoughts from this individual.”
The owner noted the recent attacks on the venue stemmed from the article and subject matter. “Since the release of this article, we have been swamped with phone calls and social media messages that are threatening and intimidating to both us and our employees. These hateful and disturbing messages are truly saddening to those of us who just want to serve delicious food and cold beers,” the restaurant said.
Hovater apparently suggested he be fired, the statement added. “We felt it necessary to fully sever the relationship with them in hopes to protect our 20 other employees from the verbal and social media threats being made from individuals all over the country, and as far as Australia.”