A popular mainstay restaurant in Washington County is now under fire over the Halloween weekend after a Washington County Public Schools employee published a Facebook post that went viral.
Jennifer Manuel Rhinaman, 47, of Boonsboro, Md., published a Facebook post Saturday night in which she alleges a child “dressed up like a Trump baby was denied candy” at Dan’s Restaurant and Tap House.
“There is no excuse for this but pure ignorance! Are we now supposed to accept the fact that we are to deny our children candy based upon their costume?” Rhinaman wrote.
The Town of Boonsboro held its annual trick-or-treat tradition Saturday evening after consulting local police on safety issues, despite rising COVID-19 positivity rates.
Dan’s Restaurant and Taphouse co-owner Charlotte Aufdem-Brinke, 39, of Boonsboro said she was first notified of the dubious social media accusations shortly after 10:00 p.m. Saturday.
“I was horrified by the allegations. The Taphouse would never tolerate any disrespect towards children for any reason whatsoever,” Aufdem-Brinke told A Miner Detail Sunday.
“I immediatly communicated with the Taphouse hostesses responsible for handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters to understand what had happened. Neither hostess had any recollection of the alleged incident.”
Aufdem-Brinke said Taphouse co-owner Dan Aufdem-Brinke reviewed the restaurant’s outside video footage from Saturday but found nothing to support Rhinaman’s allegations
Rhinaman removed her Facebook post late Saturday and issued an apology.
“I apologize for my previous post about Dan’s Restaurant & Tap House.”
“I was told about an incident by the child’s parents and should not have put it on social media since I was not there in person.” Rhinaman said she let her “feelings get the best of her,” and she’s “sorry for any outrage” that her post may have caused.
A Miner Detail confirmed Rhinaman’s apology in an interview Sunday.
“It was second-hand knowledge, and I was not present,” Rhinaman said.
“I had a reliable source, but I should not have said anything about it whatsoever because I didn’t see it myself.”
She pointed to her father’s recent death as a reason for publishing the post, without evidence.
The Taphouse Responds
Aufdem-Brinke said she published a response on the Taphouse’s Facebook page and her personal social media account.
This summer, Aufdem-Brinke said, “the Taphouse took a firm position on social and racial justice issues in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.”
She said that since the Taphouse began expressing its values publicly, she and other Taphouse employees have been targeted with “hate and harassment.”
“The Taphouse’s message has always been clear and consistent: We advocate for social justice and equality. We advocate for tolerance. This includes people whose beliefs and views are different from our own, so long as they are not bigoted and hateful,” Aufdem-Brinke said Sunday.
“Despite the prolonged attacks on my business, and the unfair mischaracterizations of our values, the Taphouse’s mission remains to cultivate an intentionally inclusive environment, where everyone feels safe and welcomed,” she said.
Aufdem-Brinke said Rhinaman messaged her through Facebook Saturday night and Sunday morning, identifying the costumed child’s parents as Jerid and Jessica Nalley.
Nalley responds to A Miner Detail
In an email exchange with A Miner Detail Sunday, Jessica Nalley said she was escorting her child during the Town’s trick-or-treating event.
Nalley said she and her child walked by the Taphouse on Saturday evening.
“I asked if there was anyone handing out candy here, and the ladies or girls just turned their head, so we continued walking.”
“There were other children that got candy, and a candy bag was right next to the bench outside of Dan’s. There were no said words (sic) no hard feelings (sic) it was just a piece of candy.”
Nalley said their last stop on Saturday was at a friend’s house, just off Main Street. She said she and her friends chatted about the Town’s trick-or-treating – and that’s when the alleged incident at Dan’s was discussed.
But Nalley said she was unaware that her comments would be shared on social media
“I was not asked if I wanted any of this posted on social media and the person [Rhinaman] that posted it reached out to us and apologized. We haven’t posted anything negative about Dan’s (sic) period.”
Rhinaman maintained in her apology post that she was told about the alleged incident at the Taphouse by Jarid and Jessica Nalley.
A request by Aufdem-Brinke to disclose the identity of the intermediary party who shared the information with Rhinaman has gone unanswered.
“This entire situation has blown way out of control,” Nalley said.
“We have no position on the matter. As far as I know, the person [Rhinaman] that made the post deleted it and has apologized to Dan’s and myself.”
Aufdem-Brinke said that despite Rhinaman removing her social media post that attacked the Taphouse, the damage had already been done to the business.
“Several people who saw Ms. Rhinaman’s post angrily messaged the Taphouse threatening to never again dine with us.”
Aufdem-Brinke to take legal action
Aufdem-Brinke said she has contacted attorneys and intends to take legal action.
“I understand some members of our community disagree with the Taphouse’s values. The Taphouse did not intentionally wade into politics to be controversial or support a specific party or political ideology; we want to advocate for basic, human decency.”
Aufdem-Brinke acknowledges that she has become a polarizing figure in the conservative bastion since relocating to the town a little over a year ago.
The Eastern Shore native says she’s especially protective of the Taphouse staff and seeks to be a role model for her family.
Admittedly complex but nonetheless steadfast, Aufdem-Brinke says that “Everything I’ve done with the Taphouse has been me also trying to be an advocate. Trying to do good.”
She says she’s often “misunderstood.”
An outsider to Boonsboro, Aufdem-Brinke acknowledges that her sometimes brash, in-your-face style is subject to critical pushback amid some of the more local conservative residents.
But, she admits, her delicate side isn’t always seen publicly, though she is a profoundly loving mother and a compassionate friend, to those whom she allows to be close to her, which is rare, she concedes.
Unwilling to mince words, Aufdem-Brinke, a proud Mount St. Mary’s University graduate with an admittedly pronounced vocabulary that intermittently intersects with a cascade of dangling expletives, said she refuses to concede her “moral principles,” vowing to invariably hold the line, regardless.
Sipping on only marginally chilled white wine while seated at her kitchen island granite countertop, Aufdem-Brinke’s aura of confidence rests on a simple, universal axiom – be truthful to thyself and with others, including, even, when necessity compels her to humble another.
“What does it say when Ms. Rhinaman tags Fox News conservative host Tucker Carlson and Fox News, the media outlet,” Aufdem-Brinke pondered aloud.
“I cannot understand why Ms. Rhinaman did not reach out to me first before publishing incendiary and false information, which she did not personally witness or verify.”
“It’s frustrating that our message is under attack, even by some within our beloved community, where I am raising my children,” Aufdem-Brinke said, who is a mother of four.
“As a mother myself, I am absolutely disgusted that someone would use a child as a pawn in a deplorable attempt to undermine the message of social justice put forth by my business.”
In recent weeks, Aufdem-Brinke said the Taphouse received numerous harassing phone calls.
She filed a peace order against the alleged caller, 33-year-old Patrick Amatucci of Hagerstown, Md, almost a one month ago.
The peace order expired last Monday.
Aufdem-Brinke said her business also has been targeted by Boonsboro High School students who coal rolled Taphouse guests who were dining outside, on Main Street.
She said, in addition, she has been the subject of numerous attacks misrepresenting the Taphouse’s message and core values, at the behest of Jerry DeWolf, the current chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee, as well as some local supporters of President Donald J. Trump.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the presidential election after he reached 270 electoral votes the Saturday after the Nov. 3 presidential election.
***This article has been updated since its original publication.***