La Viola defends criticism for alleged hate-crime by customers

La Viola is defending itself against online attacks related to an alleged hate crime attack commit by their suspected customers.

La Viola Ovest, on S. 16 and Latimer streets, is believed to be where a group of 15 suspects identified by police dined before some of them engaged in attacking a gay couple on Thursday, Sept. 11. Credit: Sam Newhouse La Viola Ovest, on S. 16 and Latimer streets, is believed to be where a group of 15 suspects identified by police dined before some of them engaged in attacking a gay couple on Thursday, Sept. 11. Credit: Sam Newhouse

 

After Twitter sleuths found a picture of the suspects identified by police dining out before allegedly participating in a hate crime attack on a gay couple in Center City last Thursday, they identified the restaurant where the group dined as La Viola Ovest.

 

But the viral story, which has attracted attention nationwide, has now led some internet users to start bashing La Viola via Facebook and Twitter for the alleged actions of their suspected customers.

 

"I hope the Feds file charges against La Viola," wrote Chris Ziegler on the restaurant's Facebook page, along with a one-star review.

 

"The decision not to assist police in identifying the group who attacked two men after dining at your restaurant shows a serious lack of civic duty," wrote William Paradis in another one-star review on Facebook.

On Yelp, reviewer "Michael B." from Los Angeles, CA, gave the restaurant a one-star review and wrote, "Protecting murder suspects? FAIL."

Yelp user "Mr. M." from Philly also left a one-star review stating, "Perfect for Guido and his lowlife thugs."

But the restaurant has not been contacted by police regarding the hate crime investigation and does not keep track of customers, according to Justin Kupa, sous chef and brother-in-law of the restaurant's owner.

"It happened last Thursday, and today is what, Wednesday?" Kupa asked. "How would you remember the customers a week later?"

Kupa said the restaurant does not track its customers and that it was not aware that it was alleged in news media that their customers had participated in a crime until today.

"We're not animals. If I see a crime happen outside of my restaurant, I'll call the police," Kupa said. "Who pays attention to the customers? Do I know if they're gonna go outside and commit crimes? You might have been on a train station — are you gonna punish the whole train station because you were there?"

The 15 individuals suspected in the attack, who are all in their mid-twenties, were shown by police in surveillance video walking down 16th Street.

Twitter sleuths claimed to have found a group picture in which the individuals resembling those in the footage are seen in a room that resembles a room at La Viola Ovest and contacted law enforcement after claiming to identify some of the suspects.

Reports say the suspects have contacted police to turn themselves in at some point today. Police declined to comment on those reports.

Kupa is now concerned that the restaurant's online ratings will be hurt by the negative ratings that these users are posting.

"It definitely does hurt our reputation. You see that?" he asked, gesturing to Zagat awards and newspaper clippings on the restaurant's front window. "It took us 14 years to build a reputation like that."

"People can be black, white, male, female, gay, it doesn't bother us, it's human rights, you can choose living the way you want to," he said. "As long as you're happy with my service and my prices and my food, that is my goal in the restaurant. We're not here to pre-judge people."

Check out the original surveillance video below.

 
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