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Reviewers go to Yelp after Florida pizza parlor owner hugs Obama

Photos of Scott Van Duzer lifting the president off the floor bring an onslaught of impassioned political commentary from customers on Yelp.

September 12, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times
  • President Obama is picked up by Scott Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant, during a visit to the restaurant in Fort Pierce, Fla., during the second day of Obama's two-day bus tour across Florida.
President Obama is picked up by Scott Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza… (Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images )

It's never just a simple bearhug when President Obama is involved.

For Florida pizza parlor owner Scott Van Duzer, lifting the president off the floor last weekend has wrought an onslaught of impassioned political commentary from customers on Yelp.

When Obama on Sunday dropped by Van Duzer's eatery, Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant in Fort Pierce, the registered Republican and Obama supporter was so excited that he swept the commander in chief clear off his feet.

Photos of the jubilant embrace raced around the Web. Diners (and more) raced onto Yelp.

Before Sunday, Big Apple Pizza had two customer entries on the review site, both rating the restaurant at five stars. The eatery has maintained its exemplary score, but now has 2,352 reviews, as well as 159 reviews filtered by Yelp for being suspicious.

Many comments were directed at Van Duzer.

Bruce B. of Ocala, Fla., called the restaurant owner "a moron" for backing Obama — but only because the decisions "will Alienate HALF of the people who may potentially give you money for your product."

"If you have no more business acumen than that, you don't DESERVE to stay in business," Bruce B. wrote.

On the other hand, Bob S. of Ellicott City, Md., wrote that Big Apple Pizza was "how businesses should be run."

"This is an owner who works for himself and his community and is a model of how free enterprise works when it isn't trampled by corporate America," Bob S. wrote.

Some of the comments were more focused on the pizza, although it could not be verified if the people leaving notes had actually ever been in Big Apple Pizza.

"Pizza is horrible," commented Kay J. of Frankfort, Ill. "If I could give it a ZERO rating I would." And from the other side of the spectrum: "It's the best pizza in Florida," wrote John C. of Laguna Niguel, who said he had tried it earlier this year. "I only wish we were in Florida more often so we could enjoy this great restaurant every week."

Others were astounded at the sheer volume of remarks.

"Only the original two reviews should still be standing!" wrote Diana S. of Fountain Valley. "Everything else should be filtered. Including mine. This is ridiculous.

"I'm a bleeding heart liberal. But 2,000+ reviews for a local pizza place?"

Van Duzer is far from the only restaurateur to wade into the political muck. Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, set off weeks of debate this summer when he publicly voiced his opposition to gay marriage. And John Schnatter, chief executive of the Papa John's pizza chain, got numerous heated responses when he said Obama's healthcare reform law will force the company to raise prices.

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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