On December 21, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila was recognized by a staff member as she was waiting for her table at L.A. restaurant Red Medicine. Not only were Virbila and her party asked to leave, she was photographed and her image was posted on the restaurant's Tumblr site along with an explanation from Red Medicine's managing partner Noah Ellis.
"Our purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her," Ellis wrote. "We find that some of her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational, and that they have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs—we don't feel that they should be blind-sided by someone with no understanding of what it takes to run or work in a restaurant."
For sure, restaurant managers have the right to refuse service to anyone. But to photograph and expose a newspaper critic—who often goes to great lengths to preserve his or her anonymity—seems a bit extreme. And while it's certainly true that a bad review can be devastating to a restaurant—or a movie or a play or an iPad app—it's ultimately the consumers' opinions that determine whether an establishment stays in business or not.
Do restaurant critics have too much power? Did Ellis have the right to refuse service and "out" Virbila by releasing her photograph?