Call it a case of mistaken identity. Calls for a protest began after a Waxahachie, Texas eatery, Big Al’s Down the Hatch, hosted an event for gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke on the afternoon of Sunday, August 7.
Following the event, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that there was a call for boycotts of the restaurant in social media groups. However, some folks pointed their ire at the wrong Big Al’s, and instead, a barbecue restaurant in Dallas has been drowning in emails from people who say they won’t be eating there again.
The event host was Big Al Mack, the owner of the bar and grill Big Al’s Down the Hatch, opened the restaurant in Waxahachie five years ago. Mack is a radio personality on the Kidd Kraddick morning show, which airs in Dallas and over 70 other markets around the country, and on Dish Network as a TV show in the evenings. At the event, Mack thanked the crowd for being “part of the change” and joked that the restaurant would have a whole menu named for O’Rourke, including wings, a brisket sandwich, a BLT, bacon jalapenos, and a salad. “Of course I’m gonna plug my restaurant while I work,” Mack kidded.
Like many of O’Rourke’s events around the state, attendance was much higher than expected — the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that a few hundred were expected, and thousands turned out. O’Rourke’s campaign posted a Facebook Live of the event, which happened right off the Ellis County courthouse square that day and showed the streets filled with supporters. It paints an interesting picture for a county where 66.2 percent of the vote in the last presidential election went to the Republican candidate.
Lauran Weiner, the owner of Big Al’s Smokehouse BBQ in Dallas on Inwood near Love Field, posted an Instagram reel on August 10 responding to the boycott. She points out there are multiple small businesses named Big Al’s in the area, and this boycott threatens not only her business but all her employees. “While this may seem like a little mistake or error by whoever did it, it’s huge for a little business like mine. Sadly, it’s really hard to put this genie back into a bottle,” Weiner says.
Weiner says that her business supported the Ronald McDonald charity that night, and urges boycotters to stop pursuing negative actions and instead do something for a local charity if they want to put a message out on social media. Then, she suggested protesters should not boycott small businesses, including Big Al’s Down the Hatch in Waxahachie.
“No small business deserves to be boycotted for something like this. We’re all in this together. Please support small businesses in your area,” Weiner said.
Speaking to Eater Dallas, Weiner speaks about the retribution that followed. “On Sunday and Monday I started getting these submissions through our website with nasty stuff about the candidate, and [saying] I’m boycotting you and thousands of conservatives are going to boycott you,” Weiner says. “I get so many weird emails and scams, I ignored it at first. Then I started seeing one star reviews about my food and saying that I support a communist.”
The one-star reviews were largely on Google, Weiner told Eater Dallas, but many have disappeared. She addressed each individually but they appear to have removed those reviews. “My social media person started researching it and found out what it was,” Weiner says. “Someone posted a TikTok about this event and they had tagged us inadvertently.”
The Yelp page for Big Al’s Down the Hatch has experienced a huge dip in ratings and is currently being monitored by Yelp for negative reports due to all the press coverage. Mack told the Star-Telegram that he didn’t want anyone to boycott him or any other restaurant, but if they were they should know “they’re boycotting the wrong people.”
“I have people who are still furious with me because I didn’t say bad things about the candidate. I’m not going to disavow them, you’re not baiting me into it,” Weiner tells Eater Dallas. “I know who I’m going to vote for and if I had a political opinion I shared on my restaurant account, it would be that everyone should vote.”
Eater Dallas reached out to Big Al’s Down the Hatch in Waxahachie, but it has not yet responded.
Update: Tuesday, August 16, 2022 at 9:10 a.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Lauran Weiner of Big Al’s BBQ Smokehouse. It also corrects the spelling of her first name.