On Friday night, in the midst of a dinner rush, restaurant owner Diana Vu McDonough said a woman with two children walked into her Long Beach restaurant and asked for chicken popcorn.
McDonough, who runs the Lacquered restaurant with her husband, Scott, told the woman that chicken popcorn was no longer on the menu but instead she could cook her chicken fillets. The woman insisted that the last time she visited him she ate popcorn chicken. It was the dish she wanted.
For memory :
2:35 p.m. March 24, 2021An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that eight women of Asian descent were killed in Atlanta. The correct number is six.
“I told him it must have been three years ago, because we put them out to tender three years ago,” McDonough said. “She went out and got really mad at me.”
Two days later, McDonough noticed a one-star review on his restaurant’s Yelp page. The notice was posted by a user named Kirk R. He said, “This Asian lady was so rude and disrespectful. The lady went mad for asking for chicken popcorn. Not to mention all the Asians who get attacked. With that attitude, it’s a matter of time before this place catches up. Overpriced food that isn’t even that good.
McDonough said several people told him they reported the review to Yelp, claiming it was racist. The Yelper Kirk R published several versions of the review, rephrasing the post to remove reference to Asians under attack and add language accusing McDonough of acting “in a discriminatory manner.”
“It really shocked me because it’s not just San Francisco that Asians are hated right now,” McDonough said. “I am Vietnamese and grew up in Little Saigon and have never been persecuted or discriminated against in any way. It made me feel very vulnerable.
McDonough posted an article about the Yelp review on Facebook.
“Wow… Even the little old me living in OC working at LB having a taste of #asianhate… I’m surprised and angry,” she wrote.
The Lacquered incident came less than a week after six Asian women were killed in Atlanta and amid an increase in hate crimes against Asians across the country.
The Cal State San Bernardino Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism recorded a total of 122 anti-Asian hate crimes last year, according to a survey of police departments in 16 major US cities. That’s a 149% increase from 49 crimes in 2019.
McDonough called Long Beach Police to let them know she had been threatened on Yelp. She was given a field maintenance card from the Long Beach Police Department with the words “terrorist threats” written on it and a reference number to refer to if she received another threat.
“We were called to the restaurant yesterday at around 4:23 pm, however, the appellant did not want a prosecution so no police report was made,” said Arantxa Chavarria, chief information officer of the police department. from Long Beach, in an email. “This has been documented on our end and we have encouraged them to remind us if other issues arise.”
Yelp deleted the notice this morning. One of McDonough’s customers, who reported the notice to Yelp, forwarded an email she received from the Yelp support team.
“After carefully evaluating the review against our content guidelines, we agree that this review should be removed,” the email read.
The same Yelper Kirk R has since posted another one-star review of the restaurant, claiming McDonough screamed and the restaurant’s former owners were nicer. McDonough was quick to respond on Yelp, letting the person know that she and her husband opened the restaurant three years ago. There has never been another owner.
“It’s like I’m saying no or I can’t do something, so I’m a rude Asian lady, but I’m not,” McDonough said. “Just because I have an Asian accent and speak a little louder because it’s busy, so I’m a loud, rude Asian woman. I feel very horrible and threatened in my own work.