On Tuesday of this week, Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila visited a new restaurant in Beverly Hills called Red Medicine. Upon arriving, Virbila and the members of her party waited over 40 minutes to be seated. In spite of this, press reports do not suggest she complained or acted out. Without warning, the owner of the restaurant came over to her, snapped her photograph and posted it to the restaurant’s Flickr pool.
The image quickly passed through various internet websites. Virbila had protected her anonymity for over 16 years at the Times. Now, one angry owner took it away from her.
Owner Noah Ellis cited negative reviews as the reason he outed her and claimed “[her reviews] have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs.” He later took down his message, which attacked Virbila viciously.
Even if we grant for the moment that Virbila is an unnecessarily critical reviewer (and I’ve never read her reviews), what gives Red Medicine the right to end her anonymity? Given the fact that Ellis recognized her so easily, why would others in the restaurant world not? Virbila did nothing disrespectful to even moderately justify the response. Also, stick by your opinions. Taking down the message indicates some sort of regret.
What seems more likely is that Virbila’s experience is common at Red Medicine. It seems that frequent problems have dogged the restaurant. This was a way to get back at Virbila for the unwritten review of the restaurant or, perhaps, a strategy for some publicity. Shame on you, Red Medicine. You are a bully.