Before last weekend, Hennessey’s Tavern in Dana Point, California, was regarded as a nice place to unwind after a long day. Reviewers on Yelp extolled the virtues of the bar’s outside seating area, praised the service, and spoke warmly of the crowd, which is comprised, on most nights, of locals. If you go to the same Yelp page today, you’d need to do a lot of scrolling to find those reviews. Before you’re even able to wade into the one-star critiques calling the place a den of racism and iniquity, you’ll have to acknowledge that you’ve read a “clean-up alert” — a notification Yelp puts up on any business that has recently made headlines.
“This business recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their views on the news,” the warning reads, before informing the user that both positive and negative reviews may be inaccurate and that Yelp is doing its best to sort the real talk about bartenders touching their hair excessively while they pour drinks (this one from February 2017) from recent criticisms that there’s hair in the drinks and that the food at Hennessey’s is so bad that it will literally make you defecate on the floors, creating a hazard for other customers (May 7, 2017).
Why the sudden hate? Like Mike Huckabee and then presidential candidate Donald Trump, the people who run Hennessey’s decided that the best way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo was to run a tone-deaf promotion that targeted the Latinx population and made light of Trump’s proposed border wall. The deal? Climb a giant inflatable wall, erected in front of the restaurant and get a “Green Card” which would dub the holder a “permanent drinker” and entitle them to a two-for-one drink special.
Sombreros were on hand to make the event more reductive, and The OC Weekly notes, the staff at the establishment even handed out fake mustaches. The New York Daily News reports that a customer who had been at the bar during the event heard people chanting “Build the wall!” although the establishment’s proprietor, Paul Hennessey, denies this.