A Massachusetts restaurant received a one-star Yelp review by a commenter who said the small rainbow flag outside was the reason for the poor grade.
Nino Barbalace, the owner of Dorchester’s Caffe Zia Gianna, says the comment feels “personal.”
“If you go to a place and you’re not happy with the food or the service, I understand that if I made a mistake because we all make mistakes,” Barbalace, who emigrated from Messina, Italy, told Fox 25. “This is a restaurant, not politics.”
The review, which has since been taken down, admitted the food at Zia Gianna bakery and cafe is “decent,” but the writer said he could “no longer accept patronizing this establishment.”
“After seeing the rainbow flag in the window, I’ve had it with this place and have thrown in the towel,” he wrote. “Well, that flag says all and when you delve deeper to see the real customer base here, it’s clearly geared and catered ONLY to those who rally behind the rainbow flag.”
Yelp review guidelines make it clear that reviews “aren’t the place for rants about a business’ employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.”
Barbalace, who has kept the flag up, posted a screenshot of the review on Facebook, writing “all are welcome at Zia Gianna, even this gentleman.”
And his customers agree: “We thought we were beyond that at this point,” said Tiffany Andrade, who specifically came to eat at Zia Gianna on Friday to show her support. “Luckily we live in the land of the free and people are entitled to their own opinion. But I do think it’s something to understand that we are an open community and there are people who come from all different countries and all different backgrounds and we should be welcoming of everyone.”
But Via Gianna’s Facebook page also had comments attacking Barbalace, many from people who live nowhere near Dorchester. “No reason to hang that flag in the window,” wrote one user from Georgia. “You think you are being supportive of one group of people, but you are in fact making a larger group of people uncomfortable.”
Yelp review pages have become a flashpoint in the debate over LGBTQ equality. Establishments that discriminate against or turn away queer customers often find themselves deluged by negative reviews, many by people who have never patronized the establishment. As a result, Yelp will lock comments and investigate pages that receive an abnormal number of review or becomes the subject of press attention.
After the Supreme Court ruled Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop could turn away gay couples, its Yelp page was flooded with one-star reviews. The same thing happened to Memories Pizza in Indiana, after the owners declared they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.
Earlier this month, Yelp announced it was adding a new feature that lets users know if an establishment is “open to all… regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”