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Lexington tourism leaders, business owners still recovering from impact of Red Hen controversy

White House press secretary said she was asked to leave restaurant in June

LEXINGTON, Va. – Lexington business owners and tourism leaders are still dealing with fallout from the Red Hen controversy.

At the end of June, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that she was asked to leave the Lexington restaurant because she works for the president.

Shana Layman, who’s been running Lexington Carriage Company for decades, said this summer has been more challenging than most because of the incident at the Red Hen.

"It was a decent Saturday. We took probably 70 people, and then, on Sunday, we took four," Layman said.

As Lexington was thrown into the national spotlight, many business owners and tourism leaders said they received threats from people across the country.

"It did paralyze because it was just so close-knit in the community,” Shenandoah Attic & Victorian Parlor vice president Debbie Darlington said.

"We had people ask if everyone was welcome on our carriage and, of course, they are,” Layman said.

Now, 10 News has learned that, days after the incident, Rockbridge Regional Tourism leaders initiated an emergency spending plan, allocating $35,000 to reshape the city's image.

"It was kind of assumed that one person's opinion made everybody's opinion and it's not the case," Layman said.

Tourism leaders will use digital marketing and a perception survey in target markets to try to get that message across and give people a more positive view of Lexington.

Local business owners, who said they're still trying to bounce back, are hopeful that this new tourism push will be successful.

"Let the people understand how great Lexington truly is," Darlington said.

"The word should get out there so that people feel welcome here ‘cause everybody is," Layman said.