If you leave a bad review online about a restaurant or bar while traveling in England, you may be sued and have to prove yourself in court.
While traveling in a foreign country, you need to know where to go. That means pulling in advice from friends, talking with the locals, checking if VinePair has a travel guide, and searching for restaurants and bars on rating sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. If you follow the advice of the rating sites, it’s customary to then leave your own review for others. If it’s negative, though, you could be sued for defamation and be forced to go to court.
That’s what happened to Sarah Gardner at the High Rocks restaurant in Kent, England. She gave one star on TripAdvisor and wrote that the staff “have an arrogance that should not exist in a service industry, particularly the management.” She also added that the “food is mediocre at best, they seem to survive by being one of the few venues to do eighteenth [birthday] parties locally.”
According to the Mirror, Gardner received an 11-page letter from the High Rocks’ lawyers who said that the review was “defamatory and therefore unlawful.” It also stated that Gardner is responsible for “tens of thousands of pounds” for lost business from the review.
Gardner is likely to lose if she makes it to court. In English courts, the burden of proof rests with the person who is being accused. So Gardner would have to find a way to prove that the people at the restaurant are arrogant, the food is mediocre at best, and that High Rock survives on 18th birthday parties. Good luck with that.
Granted, Gardner is a resident of England. Traveling to court won’t be as big a deal as it would be to a traveler. But it’s not unheard of for a foreigner to be sued in England. Luckily you can escape back to the U.S. after writing a slew of negative TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews and U.S. courts can’t enforce British libel rulings, according to NPR. Just be wary when going back to the U.K.