NOTE: A follow-up on why this story went viral has been posted at this link.
The Post’s story about the Union Street Guest House was quickly and gleefully picked up by Fox & Friends, TIME online, Business Insider, and others, leading to a raft of negative feedback on Yelp and Twitter. (This begs the question: Is all press really good press?)
The USGH’s longtime owner, former 3rd Ward Alderman Chris Wagoner, responded around noon to the outrage, noting that the proposed fine was for weddings only, had never been levied, and in any case was “tongue in cheek”:
The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.
If the fine were never levied, that might appear either to verify Wagoner’s claim that the policy was not meant seriously, or possibly that there were no Yelp complaints which triggered the fine—or else that the threat of a $500 penalty indeed deterred any from being lodged.
There certainly are many complaints now, though almost all of them from people who never stayed there and are simply visiting to pile on. Going back through the reviews, here is the distribution of stars prior to today’s episode:
- 7 four- and five-star reviews;
- 1 three-star review;
- 0 two-star reviews;
- 5 one-star reviews.
So, prior to today’s news, USGH guests seemed to be polarized in a love it-or-hate it pattern. Now there are dozens and dozens of one-star reviews from people who have never been there. A lesson perhaps both to the inn, and about the perils of publicity.