Lexington business up over the summer after Red Hen controversy

By  | 

LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) — There were picketers in front of the Red Hen restaurant, and a roar as protesters on motorcycles came through town.

Summer became very interesting in Lexington after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the restaurant during dinner, bringing national attention – with extremes on the positive and negative side — to the historic small town in Rockbridge County.

"I don't know how to describe it," said Chuck Smith, owner of the Washington Street Purveyor next door. "Or how to put it, other than how people already think about it."

But now, some three months later, after the threats and demands have faded, the results are in.

"So over the summer, meals, lodging, and now sales tax were all up, and in some cases significantly," said city council member Patrick Rhamey, about figures he recently received. "Sales tax collected in July was up double digits."

In other words, Lexington did 12 percent more business this past July than last year.

"You know, it's hard to tell," Rhamey says when asked why. "People come to Lexington for a lot of reasons. We had some great events over the summer months, it was pretty in July. You know, it's impossible to trace anything down to a single cause."

"I think everybody's up a little bit," Smith says.

And maybe one person's business can be traced to the controversy, when Smith stopped to chat with a network camera crew in town for the protests.

"During the conversation, he kind of looked around and he's like, 'Man, this place is fantastic. I going to bring my family down here as soon as I get a chance,'" said Smith.

That's a feeling local businesses hope is shared by everyone coming into town, no matter what the reason.

Rhamey says of the numbers: "Always good to see them go up."