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The curious incident of the bad review and the fired bartender

August 7, 2013
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davOn July 17th, the Sun‘s Midnight Sun blog posted Wesley Case’s review of the new Hampden sports bar David’s 1st and 10. It was a mixed review, more negative than positive, but that’s not especially strange in the world of restaurant and bar reviews. But something else about the review was strange. Here’s an excerpt:

“Did you see Chris Davis’ homer?” our bartender (who on both visits was Angela Devoti, an occasional b contributor) asked as we entered on our first trip. We had missed the long-ball leader’s 417-foot blast to center field on the drive over, but we were happy to learn the employee seemed to be a genuine fan.

But things got worse, for us and the Orioles (on our first visit, the team ultimately blew a three-run lead by game’s end). With her slow, spacey voice, Devoti was pleasant and talkative our entire visit, but she seemed to forget her primary objective was to serve customers quickly.

The review continues, hammering Devoti for forgetting orders, mangling drinks, and being slow—again, par for the course in a negative review. But naming the server? That’s less common. And while we understand the need to disclose a genuine conflict of interest, it’s not clear that Devoti’s contributions to b, which she says consisted of “volunteered contributions” of “fluff joke predictions and poems” for which she was never paid, amount to such a conflict. And if it was decided a disclosure was necessary, was the full name necessary? Maybe editors could have just mentioned that the bartender had been a contributor and let readers make their own decisions about how relevant that information was.

In any case, Devoti was fired as a result of the article, along the general manager who was also criticized in the review. “I was never written up for anything prior to that, and the firing wasn’t even to my face,” Devoti wrote to City Paper. “I was never given any indication that anyone was in any way displeased with my performance.”

David’s confirmed that the review caused the staff changes. “After that scathing review, with the general manager standing in back of her, I figured it was time to make a change on both spots,” David Morgan, the owner of the bar, told City Paper, noting that the review “ripped me in half. It was the talk of the town.” (If you’re curious, here’s City Paper‘s review of the place.)

For her part, Devoti feels that both the Midnight Sun and David’s were unjustified in their actions, especially since the repeated references to her by name will possibly preclude further work in the service industry.

 “What I found really weird about Wesley Case’s David’s review is that the details of the review were not half as negative as the overall tone,” Devoti wrote. “Despite the fact that Wesley Case said I was ‘friendly and attentive,’ and my drink was ‘well executed,’ he only mentions me by name when he wants to insult my service. For example, when he mentions that I added sour mix to perfect a cocktail I was MAKING ON THE SPOT,  which he knew I was making up as I went, a drink for which he AGREED to be a guinea pig, calls me ‘the bartender’ – not ‘Angela Devoti’ – almost as if he didn’t want anyone Googling my name to ever read anything positive about me.”

Sam Sessa*,Case’s editor, had, in fact, written a positive review of the Atlas Bar, which also mentioned Devoti by name numerous times. But Devoti feels the personal attacks were unnecessary, especially in the name of disclosure, since she wrote  “silly, fluff stuff. It was all in good fun, except Sessa promised to pay me and never did.”

When asked about the incident, Sessa, who recently resigned from his position at the Sun to work for WTMD, responded that he could not comment and Case did not respond to City Paper’s requests for comment.

[Photo: Sam Holden]

*An earlier version of this post mistakenly attributed the review of Atlas to Erik Maza. City Paper regrets the error.

  • Thomas Brown

    Hampden always feels like bad news to me.