After bear hug, pizza shop owner barraged by negative reviews - FOX 13 News

After bear hug, pizza shop owner barraged by negative reviews

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A small business owner in Ft. Pierce is on the defensive after giving President Obama a big hug.  Images of the bear hug have been Tweeted around the world and back. 

Now, Big Apple Pizza owner Scott Van Duzer is under attack, the victim of partisan politics.  The restaurant keeps getting negative reviews online that insult the food, the president, and even call for a boycott.

The controversy makes no sense to the owners of West Tampa Sandwich Shop, which welcomed President Obama Saturday.

"For me, it's an honor," said owner Willy Barrionuevo.

Barrionuevo, who voted for Obama in 2008, says the Secret Service gave him only 15 minutes notice that the President was on his way.  Barrionuevo says they talked about the restaurant owner's modest beginnings as a Cuban immigrant and the hard work it has taken to grow the business into the popular spot that it is today.

The president gave a lot of hugs at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, but it is the hug at the St. Lucie County pizza parlor that has people all over the world talking.

Barrionuevo and his family don't understand the backlash.  His daughter gave President Obama a hug herself and a pat on the tummy.

"I come from a county where you could not say anything about the president, you could not express your own religion, you had to keep quiet. So the fact that we're able to do that here, I think sometimes people kind of take that for granted," said Barrionuevo's daughter Yeni Russell.

Russell says customers have reacted positively to the president's visit to her parents' restaurant -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.

"They've all said 'you know what, I may not support him, but I think that was great that he came here,'" Russell said.

Barrionuevo says having the chance to meet the president is more about respect than politics.

"I think it's the President of the United States - whoever it was - Republican or Democrat or whatever.  It's an honor to the have the president visit your business," Barrionuevo said.

Russell says West Tampa Sandwich shop would be just as welcoming to Mitt Romney if he were to stop by.

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