On the Stupidity of the La Viola “Boycott”

Let's set the record straight.

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Tuesday night was a frenetic one on the Philadelphia social media scene: the Philadelphia Police Department published video of suspects in last Thursday’s alleged gay bashing in Center City, Twitter went to work on identifying those suspects, a photo popped up that apparently shows some of the suspects at a dinner at La Viola West the night of the attack, and then … some people got really angry at the restaurant, including folks with a lot of influence — or at least a lot of social media followers. A boycott has been mentioned.

Much of this anger comes from our reporting in Tuesday night’s story about the La Viola West photo, and I’d like to set the record straight about the conversation I had with the restaurant.

I called La Viola and spoke with a manager toward the end of dinner service on Tuesday night, and it was still very busy, as evidenced by the noise level. The manager I spoke with about the party at La Viola West seemed genuinely shocked when I told her that there was a photo of the gay bashing suspects having dinner at the restaurant the night of the attack. (La Viola and La Viola West are across the street from each other and share a website, owner, etc.)

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she hadn’t even heard about the attack at all, and the chances that the cops had already paid the restaurant a visit are next to none.

She confirmed for me that there was a large party of 80 to 100 people last Thursday night. But when I asked her if she knew whose party it was, i.e. who made the reservation, she told me that she didn’t.

Someone on Facebook said that this was ridiculous. Check your OpenTable! they screamed. That would be a great suggestion — except that La Viola and La Viola West don’t use OpenTable. “We don’t use computers at all,” the manager told me.

She also added that they tear up the reservation slip at the end of each night and have no way of knowing who was at the restaurant. Yes, there is probably a credit card slip in their file, but the manager clearly didn’t quite comprehend the weight of what was happening here. The attack may have been all that Philly Twitter could talk about, but when you’re on the floor of a packed restaurant all night, your perspective would be much different.

Social media has once again proved itself to be a great tool for solving crimes and sharing information. But when that information is misinformation or misinformed opinions, that does’t help anyone.

Save your anger for the suspects, not a longstanding small business that employs your friends and neighbors.

Note: A previous version of this story identified the restaurant in question as La Viola, not La Viola West. La Viola West takes credit cards. La Viola does not.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.