When it comes to arguments over gun control in Texas, it turns out that even pizza isn't a safe topic.
This weekend, Facebook user Kyle Kelly posted that he intended to try out Pi Pizza, a pizza restaurant on Heights Boulevard – until, Kelly said, he saw that it banned carrying handguns. “Any business that removes my right to defend myself is a business that doesn't want my money,” Kelly wrote in a review on the Pi Pizza Facebook page.
Someone operating Pi Pizza's account responded to the review, “Hey Kyle, FO. You are correct, we do not want your money.” CultureMap Houston reported that the poster was Lee Ellis, whose company Cherry Pie Hospitality partnered with Pi Pizza chef Anthony Calleo to form Pi Pizza's brick-and-mortar location.
Things spiraled from there. Check out some of the exchange:
On its Facebook page, gun rights activist group Texas3006.com urged people on Saturday to take their money to other businesses. “HOSTILE BUSINESS ALERT!!! … Let's make this place regret their poor decision, and more importantly SAFETY, decision!” the group's post reads. As of Monday, the post had been liked more than 100 times and shared more than 200.
So activists for both guns and gun control (or maybe just activists for pizza) took to the Internet, posting reviews both attacking and defending Pi Pizza. According to Culture Map, Ellis said that by Saturday night, Pi Pizza had received more than 1,000 new Facebook reviews – most were five-star reviews, but another 600-plus were one-star reviews.
By Monday, Pi Pizza's Facebook review section had been shut down. Its Yelp page contains an “Active Cleanup Alert,” warning that some Yelp reviews might be removed. “This business recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their views on the news,” the alert reads. It adds, “We do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer's personal consumer experience with the business.”
As of Monday, though, some one-star Yelp reviews still remained that mentioned the gun debate. Numerous one-star reviews on Pi Pizza's Google Reviews, many of which also touch on Pi Pizza's gun control stance, also remained.
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“Gun Free Zones = Crime Spree Zones,” another Facebook page that has posted against Pi Pizza, clearly considered this a triumph.
As of press time, Pi Pizza has not yet responded to the Houston Press's request for comment. When the Press asked for comment from Texas3006.com, founder Russell Jones declined to give an interview. He instead gave a written statement, which read in part, "I can imagine that being told to 'F Off', 'Get a life', and being called an 'ignorant idiot', publicly by a business, is humiliating! Combine that with being attacked because of your self-defense beliefs, and I don't think it's difficult to see why so many people came to Kyle's defense... The outrage is over Kyle's treatment, not so much the 30.06/30.07 signs at that point." (Jones is referring to signs that a business can put up in order to signal that it bars handguns from its premises.)
A request for an interview with the operator of Gun Free Zones = Crime Free Zones was declined. The operator of the account – who, when asked for his or her name, said in a Facebook chat, “My name is Freedom” – also posted the following on the page:
We'll update when we hear more. In the meantime, all of the social media furor hasn't seemed to actually hurt Pi Pizza – according to CultureMap, Ellis said business was actually up over the weekend.