TIVERTON, R.I. — Yelp has suspended reviews of a Tiverton restaurant after outraged consumers flooded the page with complaints about an antisemitic meme that the restaurant posted on social media.
On Friday, Atlantic Sports Bar and Restaurant on Shove Street posted a photo of Anne Frank, the teenage author whose famous diary chronicled her experience during the Holocaust, on its Facebook page. Across the black-and-white portrait of Frank, who was 15 when she died in a Nazi concentration camp, read, “It’s hotter than an oven out there … And I should know!” The image was captioned “#ohboy.”
The post quickly went viral. After initially dismissing concerns on Saturday, the restaurant deleted the post and then, a few days later, its entire Facebook page (Facebook has a policy against hate speech and started banning and removing posts that denied the Holocaust in 2020).
A person with the name Nicole Beth said on Atlantic’s Facebook page before it was deleted that she knew the owner, that the “joke” was “no doubt in poor taste,” but that “this characterization [of them] as bigots or antisemitic is incredibly unfair.”
But hundreds of people from all over the country had already started leaving negative comments on Facebook and on the restaurant review platform Yelp, where the restaurant’s star rating soon plummeted.
While the page previously featured reviews raving about the Mozambique fries, as of Tuesday morning there were more than 20 new pages of one-star reviews filled with outrage. Those reviews, as well as more than 100 others labeled “reviews that are not recommended,” are still visible on the site.
“They spit directly into the face of EVERY Jewish patron that has ever given them their time and money. ... There’s no coming back from an Anne Frank ‘joke’ ... Certain things are always going to be off the table,” wrote “Igor P.” from Dallas. (Yelp does not show the full names of any users on reviews.)
“If you have a shred of human decency you will not give these people your money,” wrote David C. of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Annie B. of Los Angeles wrote: “Vile owners who are proud of hating Jews. Stay away. Their food stinks like their ideology.”
On Tuesday, a pop-up notification on the Atlantic’s Yelp page said the business had “recently received increased public attention resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page,” so the platform temporarily disabled the ability to post reviews.
“While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism or discrimination in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express points of view we might agree with),” read the alert from Yelp.
The restaurant issued an apology on its Facebook page after calls for a public apology mounted.
“The post was poorly thought out and we realize that it was incredibly inappropriate and does not reflect our values as members of our community,” the post read.
“There is no excuse for the sharing of this post, and there is nothing we can do to rectify it, all we can do now is offer our deepest apology to those who were rightfully hurt by our actions,” the post continued. “The Atlantic Restaurant prides itself on being a tolerant, inclusive and safe space for all people.”
“We love and respect all of our incredible customers and members of our larger community, irrespective of their religion, race, creed, sexuality or gender identity,” the post continued. “Moving forward we will be vigilant in vetting all social media posts to ensure that nothing like the events of this past week ever happen again.”
Jessica Machado, a WBSM talk show host in New Bedford, was the first to break the story and called the restaurant for an explanation. Machado, who has children of Jewish descent, described the call on Saturday.
“I picked up the phone and I called, and said I wanted to speak with someone about a Facebook post,” Machado said. “The girl that answered said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, what post?’ I explained it and she said she didn’t get it, and I said, ‘OK, did you post it?’ and she said no. So I asked if I could talk to the person that did and she hung up on me.”
Macado said she called back again, and spoke to the owner.
He “was equally as annoyed with me,” Machado said on her show Saturday. “He doubled down on it and said he had just Googled it, he thought it was funny, and that they were very, very busy and it was very hot there, and that they didn’t have time to deal with my concerns or questions. He told me not to call them back and then, click, they hung up.”
Atlantic Sports Bar and Restaurant did not respond to the Globe’s requests for comment Tuesday. Messias Dias, the chef and owner, also did not respond to messages sent to his personal social media.
ABC-6 spoke to an unnamed employee who said that an employee posted the meme, and that this employee was “unaware” that the person in the photo was Anne Frank. On Tuesday, it was unclear whether the employee had been disciplined or fired.
Frank and her family were captured by the Nazis after hiding for more than 760 days. They were forced into a concentration camp, where they were among the millions of people who were killed or died. But the teenager’s diary was salvaged and published, and is now used to teach about the Holocaust in schools around the world.
This article has been updated to clarify Anne Frank’s death at a Nazi concentration camp.