The co-owners of Hugo's, Eventide Oyster Co., and The Honey Paw — Arlin Smith, Andrew Taylor, and Mike Wiley — have banned MaineToday.com unpaid blogger and former Dine Out Maine critic John Golden from their restaurants. According to the Press Herald (also owned by MaineToday.com parent company MaineToday Media), the decision came after the restaurateurs asked Golden not to review their newest business and he did so anyway.
While the banning of reviewers from restaurants isn't unprecedented, it's surprising in this case that the decision isn't because of a negative review; in fact, Golden has continually praised the trio's three establishments on his blog The Golden Dish. The Press Herald learned from Taylor and Wiley "that they are banning Golden from their restaurants because they find him and his writing unprofessional."
Golden told Eater in a phone interview he had intended to share his own version of the events, but felt the paper did a good job reporting on the controversy. His rebuttal was published then removed, but is still visible on Google cache. One point Golden emphasized was that when Smith asked him not to write about The Honey Paw, "I told him, 'Okay, I think I'll write about our exchange instead.' And [Smith] said, 'If you do, you'll really be in trouble.' It was a threat."
Smith flatly denied Golden's account, stating, "We've never threatened anyone. There's not one accurate piece of information in what John Golden is saying." He also told Eater this was the first time they'd ever banned anyone from their restaurants.
Golden said while he feels the decision to ban him is totally unjustified, there's no legal action to pursue and that he wouldn't anyway: "It's just part of the job, I guess. It happens in New York all the time. They can do what they want, that's their privilege, but they're being exceedingly, egregiously arrogant."
Golden initially told Eater it was the first time he'd been banned from a restaurant, as far as he knew. Later in the conversation he recalled that a piece he'd written about In'finiti (now called Liquid Riot) had prompted owner Eric Michaud to ask him never to return. Golden had posted a photo of two children riding tricycles through the building and complained about the behavior; the children turned out to be Michaud's. The post was later edited to remove the photo and mention of the children.
Golden was recently embroiled in another controversy. In March he wrote about "The Demise of the Classic Gimlet," taking local bartenders to task for not stocking Rose's lime juice for his preferred version of a gimlet. The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club owner Andrew Volk published a detailed open letter of rebuttal in the comments section and on Facebook, noting that although Rose's doesn't belong in a classic gimlet, his bar specifically stocks the ingredient for Golden. Sam Babcock of Sur Lie and Jeremy Marquart of Rudy's on the Cape noted on Facebook that they, too, carry the syrup purely out of consideration for Golden. This forced an editor to print a correction to the story.
It's unclear what the editorial hierarchy is at MaineToday.com, which laid off its paid bloggers early this year, but one takeaway from all this is that maybe it's time to hire an extra editor.