'Make lemonade out of lemons': Triangle restaurant turns scathing review into popular T-shirt

CARRBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- While it's typically never a positive to receive a negative review, one Carrboro restaurant is making the most of a difficult interaction.

Back in April, a group of customers at Luna Rotisserie and Taproom refused to comply with a local mask mandate, and declined an offer from staff to sit on the patio.

"It was pretty clear that they were there to stir trouble," said chef and owner Shawn Stokes, while commending his staff for how they handled the situation.

About a week later, Stokes noticed a number of negative reviews, though one in particular stood out.

The customer left the remarks on Google Reviews, leaving one-star, writing: "This place is full of Satanic activity. As free breathing humans, we were discriminated against, the wait staff refused to serve our laughing, smiling faces. I cannot believe the treatment we received here, as if we were below them. If you like freedom, go elsewhere!!"

"Once we realized what was happening, it became a little bit more light-hearted. And it just seemed like the best thing we could do at that point was embrace it and make lemonade out of lemons," said Stokes.

They created a t-shirt for staff, featuring the review and a caricature of the devil.

"It initially started out, 'let's make this for the staff sort of a memento that commemorates a really, really challenging year," Stokes said.

The eye-catching design and strong language caught the attention of customers.

"Customers would see it and ask what the shirt was about. And as soon as they described it, people just loved it and asked if they could buy it, and pretty much sold out of everything that we had. So we ordered more, and since then they've sold out again," said Stokes.

They've now ordered more shirts, which they hope to have available by the end of next week.

RELATED: 'Cut them a bit of a break,' restaurant owners say on negative reviews during pandemic

"As much as I disagree with what they did in coming to the store and trying to give our staff a hard time, and trying to ruin the reputation of our business during a time when our business was struggling entirely, it was a great review," Stokes said, as he chuckled.

While sales have picked up in 2021--the restaurant turned a profit in May and June--revenues were down 70-75% in 2020 compared to 2019, as Stokes highlighted challenges businesses continue to face stemming from the pandemic, ranging from staff shortages to supply chain logistics.

"Please just be understanding and instead of trying to think of the worst case explanation for why something inconvenient may be happening, maybe try to think of the most generous interpretation," said Stokes, who expressed gratitude to his team in how they've navigated the past 20 months.
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