HAZARD — On Jan. 2, Crystal Morris of Hazard posted five pictures to her Facebook timeline. The pictures show what appears to be mud and earthworms on a tile floor, with a caption written by Morris, which says, “Well since I probably no longer work there……. I figured I’d show the world how disgusting the huddle house [sic] is…… Every time you go there and drink something, just think that this is what’s sitting under the drink station….. And yes, those are worms…… Lets make this go viral….. If you question the authenticity of this photo, go to the huddle house [sic] and compare the green tile, [sic] this is where the drinks are made right next to the register.”
Within 48 hours, the pictures posted by Morris had gained more than 1,200 shares on Facebook. The Hazard Herald corresponded with Morris to inquire further about the story behind her photos and her determination to make them viral on the internet.
“I took those pics a couple months ago when my boss gave me the task of cleaning it up when the store is completely empty,” Morris said, “I took the pics to show him how severe it was and he threatened my job if I told, but I can’t be silent anymore.”
The boss Morris mentioned is Paul Popp, a manager at the Huddle House restaurant in Hazard, where Morris claims the pictures were taken. According to Popp, he did ask Morris to clean the area beneath the drink station, but the rest of her accusations are untrue.
“We had a leak at the drink station a little while back,” Popp said, “So I asked her if she would go ahead and clean under there some while the boards were removed. She cleaned out from under the station and showed me a picture. In the picture she showed me, there was some liquid there from the leak, but nothing at all like what she’s got in those pictures she’s showing everybody.”
When asked why he thinks Morris would make such a firm public push to hurt the reputation of the Huddle House, Popp said, “She’s angry. She was fired earlier that day, and two hours after she was fired, she put those pictures on Facebook.”
Due to legalities and policy, Popp is not permitted to state the reason for Morris’s firing. However, he did say that at the time of her firing there was no mention of any photos.
“The only picture she ever showed me was of a little puddle of liquid from the leak,” Popp said, “At the time that happened, I thought she was a great worker. I was even bragging on how good of a worker she was.”
But Morris stands by her allegations. “I took those pics to show Paul how severe it was underneath there and he was more concerned with the fact that I took them than he was with the condition of the service station,” Morris said.
Workers at the Hazard Huddle House on the morning of Jan. 4 were upset by the photos and stood in support of the restaurant’s integrity. Santanna Pollard, who has worked at Huddle House for five years, displayed a binder, which holds the hourly log for cleaning responsibilities during each shift.
“This get’s done by three different shifts every day; every day,” Pollard said.
Krystle Horn also commented, “I’ve worked here for 13 years and have never saw anything that looks like that. Our local health department inspects us as they are supposed to. We passed with a 96 percent.”
The workers demonstrated a way they believe Morris could have staged the incident, which included spilling wet coffee grounds and grease from the grill on the tile.
“The earthworms is what I don’t understand,” a customer said, as he watched the workers’ build their conspiracy theory, “Those things don’t just pop up in a place that’s wet or ain’t clean. They’ve got to have actual earth to live in and there ain’t any of that under there. It’s almost like somebody brought in some bait out of their tackle box and dumped it on the floor.”
Customers in the Huddle House on the morning of Jan. 4 shared compliments about the restaurant’s food and atmosphere.
“They do an awesome job and everything always looks great,” a lady eating at the restaurant stated. Another gentleman commented, “It always looks clean to me in here, and the food is good. I wouldn’t come here if it wasn’t.”
Crystal Morris has supporters too. Along with more than 1,200 shares of the pictures, she has received comments from folks urging her to keep the push going and perhaps take the effort beyond Facebook. Morris admits, however, that not all of the responses have been positive. According to Morris, some of the messages she has received as a result of the pictures have been threatening and coming from people she has never met. She cites her willingness to keep going despite the negativity as proof of her credibility.
Although the Huddle House is monitored by a 24-hour surveillance system, the recordings are only kept for a limited period of time. Therefore, there is no recording to prove what really happened on the night in question. As a result, Facebook has been swarmed over the past couple of days with shares of Morris’s pictures, as well as shares of posts from loyal customers who are taking a stand in support of one of their favorite restaurants.
On the afternoon of Jan. 4, a new picture began circulating through the Facebook newsfeeds of people throughout the Perry County region. The picture shows the result of a health inspection which occurred at the Huddle House in Hazard on the heels of Morris’s viral campaign. Huddle House passed the inspection with a 96 percent positive rating. One sentence stands out in the report, at the bottom of the “Remarks” section. The sentence says, “There is no violation at the soda fountain.”
Sam Neace can be reached 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.