Yelper brings #Asianhate to Long Beach restaurant owner

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Screenshots of Yelp reviews for Lacquered restaurant in Long Beach.

Screenshots of Yelp reviews for Lacquered restaurant in Long Beach. (Diana Vu McDonough)

On Friday night, in the middle of a dinner rush, restaurant owner Diana Vu McDonough says a woman with two children walked into her Long Beach restaurant and asked for popcorn chicken.

McDonough, who runs Lacquered restaurant with her husband, Scott, told the woman that the popcorn chicken was no longer on the menu but that she could make her chicken tenders instead. The woman insisted that the last time she visited, she’d had the popcorn chicken. This was the dish she wanted.

“I told her that must have been three years ago, because we subbed them out for tenders three years ago,” McDonough said. “She walked out and got really angry with me.”

Diana Vu McDonough, co-owner of Lacquered restaurant in Long Beach.

Diana Vu McDonough, co-owner of Lacquered restaurant in Long Beach. (From Diana Vu McDonough)

Two days later, McDonough noticed a one-star review on her restaurant’s Yelp page. The review was posted by a user with the name Kirk R. It read: “This Asian lady was so rude and disrespectful. The lady got crazy for asking for popcorn chicken. Not to brite with all the Asian people getting attacked. With that attitude, it’s a matter of time before this place gets there self caught up. Overpriced food that ain’t even all that great.”

McDonough said multiple people told her that they had reported the review to Yelp, claiming it was racist. The Yelper Kirk R posted multiple versions of the review, rewording the post to remove the reference to Asian people getting attacked and to add language that accused McDonough of acting “in a discriminating way.”

“It really shocked me because it’s not just in San Francisco that Asian people are getting hated on right now,” McDonough said. “I’m Vietnamese and I grew up in Little Saigon and I have never been persecuted or discriminated against in any way. This made me feel very vulnerable.”

McDonough posted about the Yelp review on Facebook.

“Wow… Even little ol’ me living in OC working in LB getting a taste of #asianhate… I’m surprised and angry,” she wrote.

The incident at Lacquered happened less than a week after eight women of Asian descent were killed in Atlanta and amid a rise in hate crimes toward Asian people across the country.

The Cal State San Bernardino Center for Study of Hate and Extremism found a total of 122 anti-Asian hate crimes last year, according to a survey of police departments in 16 major U.S. cities. That’s an 149% increase from 49 crimes in 2019.

McDonough called the Long Beach police to let them know that she had been threatened on Yelp. She was given a Long Beach Police Department field interview card with the words “terrorist- threats” written on it and a reference number to refer to if she received another threat.

“We were called to the restaurant yesterday at approximately 4:23 p.m., however, the calling party did not desire prosecution so no police report was taken,” said Arantxa Chavarria, public information officer for the Long Beach Police Department, in an email. “It was documented on our end and we encouraged them to call us back if any other concerns arise.”

Yelp removed the review this morning. One of McDonough’s customers, who had reported the review to Yelp, forwarded an email she received from the Yelp Support Team.

“After assessing the review carefully against our Content Guidelines, we agree that this review should be removed,” read the email.

The same Yelper Kirk R has since posted another one-star review of the restaurant, claiming McDonough yelled and that the old owners of the restaurant were more kind. McDonough quickly responded on Yelp, letting the person know that she and her husband opened the restaurant three years ago. There has never been another owner.

“It’s like if I say no or I can’t do something, then I’m a rude Asian lady, but that’s not the case,” McDonough said. “Just because I have an Asian accent and I’m speaking a little louder because it’s busy, then I’m a loud, rude Asian lady. I feel very horrible and threatened at my own work.”

Updates:
6:30 PM, Mar. 23, 2021: This story has been updated to include additional information.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.



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