Internet

Restaurant Owner Claims Google Maps Shut Down His Business

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A Washington, D.C.-area restaurant owner claims an incorrect listing on Google Maps forced his 40-year-old business to close its doors.

Italian-American Rene Bertagna, 74, is suing Google for listing the Serbian Crown restaurant as closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday – previously the eatery’s busiest days.

Bertagna says the restaurant, known for serving exotics like lion, saw a 75 percent drop in customers on the weekend starting in early 2012. He laid off half of his staff and eventually closed the restaurant in April 2013.

He said he did not know about the Google Maps listing until a customer brought it to his attention.

“A customer called me and said: ‘Why are you closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday? What’s going on?’” Bertagna told Wired.

Bertagna's attorney, Christopher Rau, has a theory that the listing was changed by one of his competitors.

Anyone with a Google+ account can modify a local page’s details including the website, address and phone number.

"This area where the restaurant is located is kind of off the beaten path," Rau said. "It's in a wealthy subdivision of northern Virginia where a lot of government employees live on these estates and houses with two- or three-acre lots … It's not really on the way to anything.”

Anyone who plugged Serbian Crown into Google Maps was being told it was closed.

“If you're going there, it's because you've planned to go there,” Rau added. “And unless you know that the place is going to be open, you're probably not going to drag yourself out."

It is possible for Google Maps listings to be hijacked and modified. In January, thousands of hotels on Google Maps were bulk modified to link to a commercial third-party site which gets commissions off bookings.

Bertagna is suing Google in Virginia federal court, but the tech giant takes no responsibility.

"The Serbian Crown should not be permitted to vex Google or this Court with such meritless claims," Google wrote in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit dated June 17.

Google’s attorneys insist that even old, established restaurants can fail.

The Serbian Crown’s Yelp reviews were not doing it any favors. Cost and service appeared to be a big downfall for reviewers.

Sources: Wired, The Guardian

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