“Reviews of local restaurant and businesses from a conservative perspective, helping [ensure] you’re safe when you shop and eat!” reads the app’s description in the Google Play store.
Wallace, who describes himself as a lifelong Republican, said he conceived the idea in November, when he was out with his youngest child and considered buying “one of those MAGA hats.” Then he wondered if it would make them targets for harassment, even in Oklahoma City.
Just a few months before, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had been asked to leave the Red Hen, a farm-to-table restaurant in western Virginia, because of her work for President Trump, he noted.
"I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t the right thing to do,’ " Wallace told The Washington Post in a phone interview Monday, referring to openly displaying his support for Trump. “That was very uncomfortable for me. I don’t want to be a nation where putting Che Guevara on a T-shirt … or wearing a MAGA hat … makes you a target.”
So he and two associates set out to develop something like a Yelp app, one that would evaluate establishments based on four questions:
- Does this business serve persons of every political belief?- Will this business protect its customers if they are attacked for political reasons?- Does this business allow legal concealed carry under this state’s laws?- Does this business avoid politics in its ads and social media postings?
“The questions, as you read through them, are designed to be apolitical,” Wallace said.
But he admits the aim is ultimately to help identify whether businesses are “safe” for conservatives.
“The truth is, from a political standpoint — not talking religion or race or sexuality — conservatives are under physical attack,” Wallace said, citing an incident in which a conservative activist was punched at the University of California at Berkeley. “The best way to describe it, to me, is there’s sort of a general unease among conservatives right now. And whether it’s real or imagined, I don’t know. … I want to call out those local businesses" where an attack against conservatives has happened or could happen.
Wallace said the reviews will be crowdsourced and rely on “the honor and trustworthiness of the reviewers themselves,” much as Yelp does.
The app launched on March 4. The Daily Beast wrote about it on Saturday and “Fox & Friends” featured the app in a segment Monday morning, dubbing it “Yelp for conservatives.” Shortly afterward, the “63red” servers crashed because of overwhelming interest, Wallace said. The company accused Facebook, the source of the app’s location data, of cutting it off because of its conservative bent.
“Apparently, ‘Doing business while #conservative’ is a real thing,” 63red’s Twitter account posted Monday morning. “Thanks to Facebook, where we get our location info, 63red Safe can’t get any data. Our sincere apologies while we call Congress and try to break up this tech monopoly.”
The tweet was later deleted. Wallace said it was “a mistake made in annoyance” and vowed to work with Facebook to resolve the issue.
“Here’s how I view this. There’s Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft … at every one of these companies, there are ‘low-level functioners,’ people who have the levers and switches to get things done but aren’t up there in the vice presidential level,” Wallace said. He said he suspects there are “socialist embeds” operating as those “low-level functioners” and they actively work against conservatives.
“When I have a little trouble at the lower levels, they’re happy to work with me at the higher levels,” Wallace added.
Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
On Monday, the ratings for “63red” on Google Play and Apple’s app store hovered around 2.5 out of 5 stars, thanks to dozens of polarized reviews. Some praised the app’s aim: “Finally, I am able to avoid places which don’t respect America and [the] US Constitution. Eat your heart out, snowflakes,” wrote one user, who rated the app five stars. Others promised to use it to identify MAGA-friendly establishments for a contrary purpose — “so you know what business to avoid and boycott,” according to someone who rated the app one star.
Wallace said he is ignoring the hate mail and “annoyed tweets” the company has received and is focusing on a bigger picture: creating apps under the 63red umbrella aimed at younger conservatives so the brand can “be a factor in the 2020 elections, both at the local and national level.”
He also emphasized that there is no hidden message or conspiracy theory behind the app’s name, which he chose at random.
“Everyone asks. It means nothing at all, absolutely nothing,” he said. “It’s a good-looking logo. It’s a unique name.”
This story has been updated to note that the Daily Beast reported on the app on Saturday.