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A Restaurant’s Fight Over Baby Buttholes Has Ignited A Firestorm Of Controversy


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Happy Friday! Let’s talk about baby buttholes. Specifically, let’s talk about the baby buttholes (okay, just one) allegedly on display at Memphis’ Imagine Vegan, which may, if these reports are true, have to amend its awning to read “Imagine Vegan: Where Buttholes Fly Free And If You Want To Start S*it About It, We’ll Finish It.” And also: “Don’t Piss Off Mama Bear.”

In order for you to understand why the hell Mama Bear’s so pissed — unfortunately it has nothing to do with porridge — you’re going to need a little bit of background on the vicious war that’s claiming casualties in the heartland and gripping the eyeballs of literally everyone you know right now because it’s a slow week in July and if your bosses really wanted you to work than they would have given you the third off, because what the hell is this “day off in the middle of the week” BS? Right?

Okay, so imagine this (unless you have a particularly vivid imagination): A woman named Chelsea Bartley recently visited Imagine Vegan and what she saw was too much to bear. She had visited the restaurant previously and ignored all the shenanigans that went on there — there have been unsubstantiated reports of breastmilk being left out and the owners running someone over with a van? — but this time she had to speak out because a bare-naked baby with dirty feet got up on her table, leaned over, let their precious little buttcheeks yawn open, and presented “its” tiny butthole for inspection.

Then, Bartley’s review alleges, another child — this one older — wandered over to yodel and stare at her, although it’s not clear if this happened in a separate incident after the butthole was presented or whether the older child saw the butthole, knew from experience that it shouldn’t be observed in hushed silence, and immediately ran over to give it the respect it deserved, after which both children bowed and shouted “The Aristocrats!” before running off to bless another lucky patron.

Here’s a screenshot of the review, via Google:

Now, here’s the interesting thing: This review isn’t mean or outlandish. It even gives the place two stars, which makes us wonder what exactly would push Bartley to just go ahead and give someone the lowest rating possible. As someone who’s seen a stranger’s naked butthole in public via a consensual decision to attend a bachelorette party with strippers, I can tell you that the experience was jarring enough when I knew it’d be coming (phrasing!). If I hadn’t known, I can guarantee that whatever establishment was providing me with the view would receive a one-star rating. Chelsea Bartley, though? She’s chill. And we’ll never never know what would drive her to rate the restaurant lower because Chelsea Bartley is now banned (banned) from ever seeing that baby’s butthole eating at Imagine Vegan again.

In a since deleted Facebook post that’s truly got the hashtag #buttholegate rolling, Mama Bear lashed out, spitting that she was tired of negative reviews and, instead of promising to up the food and atmosphere, announced instead that she’d be naming and shaming every person who left a negative review in the future with stern words and even pictures, presumably to threaten their health and safety even more than the possibility of being pooped on during dinner already might (you know as well as I do what happens right after a baby exposes its butt).

The first response, via Jezebel:

I am about to start calling out names and pictures of people who leave us bad reviews, especially when it deals with our children. You will no longer be allowed to come and dine at Imagine. Especially when you lie about our babies. We do not need or want your business. Be our guest to go and eat at the other vegan restaurants down the street. This is going to be fun!!!! You’ve thoroughly irritated mama bear!!!!!!!!! We’re starting with Chelsea Bartley!

For anyone who reads this and is instantly scared this might affect our business, I cannot begin to tell you how much we do not care. Haters are not welcome at Imagine!!!!

You hear that haters? Go to the other vegan restaurants on the block! Why not try “Practicalities?” or “Concrete Thoughts?” Or “A Place Where The Food May Be Dry As Hell Because That Is The Nature Of Most Fake Meats But Also We Do Not Have Un-diapered Children Rolling Around Here Like The Apocalypse Has Come” down on Main street? The name’s a little cumbersome, but they do their best.*

Of course, Mama Bear may have been a little too rash. It used to be that businesses could survive on word-of-mouth and good vibes alone, but now that Google Reviews and Yelp are here, restaurateurs really can’t afford to say “screw the haters.” That can really suck, especially when people start piling on, as they did in this case, but it also keeps owners from running roughshod on their clientele. Sure, a chef who doesn’t cook a steak past medium or make substitutions may not be someone’s cup of tea, but they’re also not going to inspire the kind of rabid response that Imagine Vegan did. So they posted an update:

To clarify what happened with this bad review, this is what happened:

We have a one-year old child who has just discovered she can undo the Velcro on her diaper. She is also currently potty training. One day last week, she got out of my husband and my site, took off her diaper and ran across the restaurant. She was quickly apprehended and re-dressed. Someone decided that it was necessary to leave very nasty review about it. Not only about it but our five-year-old who was trying to say hello to her and she was very uncomfortable and offended. This irritated the heck right out of me because we clearly state on our menu that children could be around the restaurant. I called her out for it and she apparently didn’t like it. Now trolls and others are finding it necessary to bash a restaurant they’ve never even been to.

It’s hard to know whose side to be on here. On one hand, Bartley has what appears to be a fairly reasonable complaint. On the other, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for the restaurant owners who are trying to raise a family while running a business. Should the two have been mixed? Logic says that a nekkid baby should have been nowhere near the food, but logic and reality aren’t always completely in sync. And while Mama Bear should make every effort to maintain a butthole-free atmosphere, it’s hard to defend all the fake negative reviews that have piled in since the incident gained steam. It’s one thing to demand that a restaurant apologize and get on its game. It’s quite another to flood its social media with lies and self-righteous cruelty under the guise of being noble and “doing what’s right.”

Will Imagine Vegan suffer the same fate as Amy’s Baking Company, which has shuttered forever? Or will it thrive and survive on the goodwill of regulars and all the publicity this incident has wrought? To be honest, I’m most interested in the yodeler. Are they available for parties? And can I get that without the butthole or is it a package deal?


*And saying the acronym, a co-worker pointed out, summons Cthulhu! Added bonus!

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