NEW HAMPTON — Two competing barbecue stand operators were dishing up different explanations about the origin of negative online reviews of one of the businesses.
Scott Buitta, who operates the Barbecue Shack and Smokehouse at 559 Route 104, is accusing Chris Bell who operates the Traveling TexasSmokeShop at 368 Route 104, with writing a negative review of his business and then having a hand in subsequent disparaging reviews on social media.
Buitta was in Belknap Superior Court Friday seeking to get a judge to impose a restraining order and Bell and Aimee Gilson, who is listed in Buitta’s complaint as a co-defendant.
In a 15-minute hearing, Buitta said Bell and Gibson were responsible for the negative review and “a bunch of spoof accounts to enhance the negative reviews against me.”
Both Bell and Gibson denied Buitta’s allegations.
Buitta asked the court to order Bell and Gibson to stop harassing and intimidating him, not to have any form of contact with him, including on social media, and to stay away from his business, his home, and “any place I may be.”
When asked by O’Neill whether Bell or Gibson had specifically threatened him recently, Buitta said they had not. He did, however, say Bell had assaulted him three years ago in the New Hampton Town Hall after a Planning Board meeting.
Buitta said Bell had moved his barbecue operation from Route 104 in Meredith to a location about 1 mile from Buitta’s business two months ago. He said the initial “attack” on his business began the day after Bell moved to his new location.
Buitta accused Bell and Gibson of “libelous statements and defamation.”
“I need to protect myself from being harassed and libeled,” Buitta said.
O’Neill told Buitta his complaint did not ask the court to address any claim of defamation.
“These issues are not before the court,” he said.
“I object to this and I ask the court to dismiss all these allegations,” Bell told the judge. “None of these things have been proven.”
O’Neill took the case under advisement and said he expected to issue a ruling by Monday.