For most in the hospitality industry, the odd bad review is part and parcel of the trade, but one venue appears to be determined to silence its critics.
According to The Mirror, Sarah Gardner, a 44-year-old mother and part-time nurse, has been threatened with legal action after posting a negative review on TripAdvisor of the Tunbridge Wells-based High Rocks restaurant and wedding reception venue.
The review posted on March 22 has since been taken down, but according to a screenshot obtained by the Daily Mail, it said: “Visited here with my family, been coming here for years. I have found the staff more and more rude each time."
“They have an arrogance that should not exist in a service industry, particularly the management. It’s as if they are doing you a favour, I found dealing with them frustrating and perplexing."
It went on to add: "Food is mediocre at best, they seem to survive by being one of the few venues to do eighteenth parties locally.”
Cohen Davis Solicitors, who are representing the eatery, have reportedly sent Gardner an 11-page letter threatening her with action in the high court on the grounds of defamation.
According to the Daily Mail, the letter said: "Our client will pursue you for aggravated damages to compensate it for the full extent of its financial losses." The restaurant claims the single review caused "financial harm worth tens of thousands of pounds."
A mock-up of the draft of a court injunction was also attached reportedly reading: "PENAL NOTICE: If you, Sarah Gardner, do not comply with this order you may be held in contempt of court and may be imprisoned or fined."
High Rocks' manager, Giuseppe Cappellazzi, also told the Daily Mail that Gardner did not dine at the restaurant on the date she posted the feedback. The restaurant's lawyers have reportedly demanded details and proof of her visits, including receipts. However, she says that she was not referencing an experience on that specific date, but rather her general experience.
Gardner reportedly replied to the letter saying: "I posted an honest review. Your client could have chosen to engage with it and leave their own comment beneath, which would have given their version of events. Instead they pursued the nuclear option of threatening litigation."
She told The Mirror that the reaction from the restaurant has turned her into a "nervous wreck."
Google MapsHigh Rocks is popular among wedding parties. It has been described as a "stunning" and "picturesque" venue and it's overall score on the review website is 4.5.
However, The Mirror claims that Gardner is not the first person to have been threatened by the restaurant for posting a negative review.
A couple say they removed their feedback because they were warned by the restaurant's solicitors of legal action for "malicious falsehood.”
Cohen Davis has denied contacting any of High Rocks' other customers.
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