Marc Dysinger puts the finishing touches on a plate of eggs Benedict at Sneakers in Winooski, Vt. / Glenn Russell, The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press
BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Winooski restaurant that was overwhelmed with online comments after it took down a bacon advertisement is moving forward, with the help of a public relations firm.
Sneakers Bistro and Cafe took down a sign that said "Yield For Sneakers Bacon" that had been in the Winooski Rotary last week in response to a complaint from a "vegan and a member of a Muslim household" who said the sign was insensitive to the city's diverse population.
Many people balked at the decision, criticizing Sneakers for what they said was an unnecessary move.
"I actually liked the restaurant and food but will never return as I am offended that my family has a 200 year old history of fighting and dying for our Freedom and that the owners aren't courageous enough to stand up to an intolerant and unreasonable person," wrote one commenter, Steven Conklin, on a public Facebook page about the controversy.
Facing national media attention and a swarm of social media comments, Sneakers has engaged the public-relations help of People Making Good in Burlington. Sneakers owner Marc Dysinger has declined to comment.
Nicole Ravlin of People Making Good said Sneakers should focus on its local community and customers rather than addressing national and international comments. Most of the social media posts have come from outside Vermont, Ravlin said.
"I think that people, especially in the local area, care about it from a point of view of wanting to support Sneakers," Ravlin said.
Some locals are posting online about eating at Sneakers or taking other steps to bolster the restaurant's reputation.
"Sneakers is a fantastic restaurant run by good people," Robert Hoyt wrote on the Facebook page in response to anti-Sneakers posts.
Others have entered favorable comments on restaurant websites like Yelp, where Sneakers' rating had taken a hit from a bevy of recent one-star reviews. Yelp also took down many of the negative reviews that referenced the controversy.
"Yelp aims to highlight useful, relevant content to help people find great local businesses based on first-hand consumer experiences, not political ideologies, media reports or hearsay," Yelp spokeswoman Hannah Cheesman wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.
Ravlin, the public relations specialist, said Sneakers is trying to continue business as usual - bacon and all.
"Chances are if you're making the right decision, it will end up OK in the end," said Ravlin, "and I really do think that will be the case here for Sneakers."
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