We’ve all heard the stories about how insulting your boss on Facebook or Twitter, or complaining about your job generally speaking, can, in some cases, land you in trouble; it can even get you fired. Recently, however, an opinion purveyed on a the social networking site Twitter got one restaurant patron thrown out of the restaurant, causing a veritable media frenzy that was eventually even covered by international news outlets.
So what happened precisely? Allison Matsu, a local Houstonian recently named by the local weekly “Best Late Night Twitterer,” was enjoying a beer or two at Down House, a new establishment located in the Houston Heights area. After overhearing a conversation the bartender was having with another customer, Matsu misunderstood the context of the conversation, thinking that the bartender was insulting another renowned Houston restaurateur.
Matsu then proceeded to tweet, “I like how I’m sitting at Down House and the twerp behind the bar is saying, ‘And I quote Bobby Heugel [the restaurateur]…’ #jackoff.” Since Matsu is a well-known foodie and Twitterer, a Down House general manager, Forrest DeSpain, saw Matsu’s tweet. Angered that one of his employees was insulted, DeSpain called Down House, and asked to speak to Matsu who was sitting at the bar. Although the details of the conversation aren’t clear, DeSpain firmly asked Matsu to leave the restaurant. Matsu reportedly left in tears, and later said that she was verbally assaulted.
Although the incident perhaps didn’t warrant the media attention that it did subsequently receive, food blogs, newspapers, and Twitter itself was abuzz after the incident. Most were shocked that a patron could actually be thrown out of an establishment because of a tweet. Although the owner of Down House, Chris Cusak, later apologized for not talking to Matsu personally, he recently issued a public statement, which still defended the intentions behind the general manager’s actions. Bobby Heugel, the restaurateur who was brought up in the bartender’s conversation that sparked the tweet, likewise issued a public statement, in which he told the restaurant critic community of Houston to “chill out.”
Now that the hype over the incident has somewhat subsided, in trying to make light of what happened, Down House has begun an insulting tweet contest, awarding a $50 gift certificate to the best insult. In retrospect, the whole debacle may seem a trifle silly, as noted in the Houston Press: “the incident on Sunday night marks one of the first times that a diner has been asked to leave for being disruptive online.” If anything, then, the story demonstrates the power of social networking activity to affect events in real life.