Salem’s Epilogue Kitchen faced online harassment over the weekend after a video emerged online of the author, Dr Naomi Wolf, confronting restaurant staff about checking customers’ vaccination cards.
Jonathan Jones, owner of Epilogue Kitchen and chef appointed by the James Beard Foundation, has had to check his COVID-19 vaccine card for dining inside the restaurant since vaccines became public in December 2020. Customers who don’t Who weren’t fully vaccinated or who refused to show their cards can dine out or get takeout.
While Jones said he had received hate and harassment in the past for meeting this requirement, he said this latest wave of responses was “unbalanced” and cited Wolf as the cause.
“It’s a lot more extreme, vicious, violent – and there’s a lot more joy in it,” Jones said. “(These online attackers) enjoy the idea that they’re hurting someone, and most of them have no shame and call with real phone numbers and names, saying things atrocious.”
Wolf did not respond to voicemails and emails seeking comment from the Statesman Journal.
Wolf is the author of the feminist book “The Beauty Myth,” and in recent years has gained notoriety for sharing unsubstantiated claims about the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the video taken by Wolf, she confronts one of the Epilogue Kitchen employees at the door. Excerpts from it were posted on Twitter, but not from Wolf’s account, since she was banned from anti-vax misinformation promotion platform in 2021.
In a clip posted to social media, an Epilogue employee explains Salem’s vaccination mandate to Wolf, while Wolf responds that she “shared the fact (that she) doesn’t believe in discrimination anywhere for any reason. whether it be”.
The employee, who is black, commented on the irony of Wolf’s statement of discrimination.
The two continue to come and go, Wolf insisting it is discrimination while the employee concluded the exchange by asking Wolf to “leave the diners their privacy” and leave.
Wolf’s phone camera pans away from the employee to show the rest of the restaurant’s facade, including their “no place for hate” poster and other signage. She responds to the employee in the video that she’s not recording individuals, but “I’m in a public space and a journalist, (so I’m recording) this moment.”
Jones said that during the filming of the first clip, he returned to the restaurant. A second clip shows Jones interacting with Wolf, with her starting him off by asking Jones to repeat what he said before the recording.
“You’re never allowed in this space again, you’ve officially been 86,” Jones tells her on the video.
Wolf asks for the meaning, and Jones explains that this means she is not allowed to be on the premises. As Wolf asks why she’s 86, Jones states it’s because of the way she interacted with her employee. She replies that she “spoke very courteously” with her staff and he interrupts her explanation to reiterate that she has been banned and will be reported for trespassing in the future.
Jones is seen walking to the front of his restaurant and sitting on one of the benches, as Wolf asks him if he would like to “talk about (what conspired) constructively”. He refuses, using an expletive and says he will sit outside the restaurant “until she leaves”.
Wolf replies that she is going to dine next door, where she had already made reservations. Jones gets up from the bench and says he will let the restaurant owner know what happened.
Reviews attack policy, employees
Jones updated social media followers throughout the weekend about the harassment he faced as a result of the video interaction. He posted photos of phone numbers and affiliate names, videos of phone interactions, rude messages from other Instagram users, reservations made for the restaurant under fake and profane names, and screenshots of new negative reviews posted on Google, Yelp and Facebook.
Jones said he had to remove the restaurant’s reviews section on their Facebook page because the rating was declining with individuals leaving reviews attacking Jones’ vaccine card verification decision and making racist statements. The reviews section was removed around 10 a.m. on July 4.
Attacks and fake reviews also flooded Epilogue’s Yelp and Google business pages all weekend. While Jones managed to hook up with Yelp to suspend new reviews over the weekend, he said he would try to reach Google after the holiday weekend.
The statesman counted that as of 5 p.m. on July 4, the restaurant had received more than 150 new one-star reviews on Google’s business page in connection with the video’s release.
Six individual reviewers explicitly reference Wolf’s video and make statements of disdain for “being discriminated against” for their writing of a review. Many mainly mention being angry enough to write a review because of the vaccination card verification requirement, while others added microaggressions referring to black staff, the restaurant’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Jones’ appearance and demeanor.
An individual account by the name of Sir Dunning Kruger III also uploaded 19 photos to the restaurant’s Google Photo Gallery, with many snaps showing maggots, insects and hairs in food. The food and environment the photos are in does not resemble the interior of the restaurant, the dishes or the food on the menu. A photo is just a piece of excrement on a plate. Two of the photos are screenshots from Wolf’s videos, one of Jones and the other of his employee.
Jones said that despite the hate he received, he did not report it to the Salem Police Department. He added that even if he did, the people harassing his business are likely “across the state, using the internet” and would most likely require a federal response.
“I will report this as a bias crime to the Oregon Department of Justice,” Jones said.
He declined to say if he was building a civil rights case, except to say he was getting a lawyer and “working on it.”
“Our city, the community that we’re a part of, has really rallied around us and made dealing with (these situations) a lot easier,” Jones said. “It’s not easy, but it’s different knowing that someone has your back.”
Jones and the restaurant staff are in the middle of an audience Fund raising campaign to help move the restaurant from 130 High Street SE to 508 State St., and expand to add a women’s sports bar and more.