Protests erupted outside a new restaurant and bar in Brooklyn, N.Y., this past weekend over the shop owner’s decision to use an alleged “bullet hole-ridden wall” and forty-ounce bottles of Rosé to advertise a cocktail.
Dozens of residents from the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Crown Heights gathered outside the Summerhill restaurant Saturday, July 22, and accused the “boozy” business of glorifying violence and playing on Black poverty stereotypes for profit, Gothamist reported.
“People of color are not props or backdrops,” Toya Lillard, a Crown Heights resident of over 20 years, told the news site. “If you are new to this community, you are dutifully bound to do some research. To be culturally literate. To know where you are and to know what came before you.”
“It’s not our job to inform you or educate you,” Lillard continued. “It’s yours.”
Bar owner Becca Brennan, a 31-year old Toronto transplant and former tax attorney, has since apologized for the promotional faux pas, but initially argued that she was just being “cheeky” when she chose to photograph a $12 cocktail in front of a wall riddled with bullet holes at the 637 Nostrand Ave. business. Brennan was also hit with accusations of racism and classism after she announced plans to serve forty-ounce bottles of Rosé in paper bags, according to Gothamist.
“I truly never meant [to trivialize gun violence], but I recognize that it was insensitive,” she said. “I was excited to keep the wall as a shoutout to the different businesses that occupied the space before us, but my intention was misinterpreted, and I’m sorry for that.”
Saturday’s protest was in direct response to a news release published by Eater New York on Monday, July 24, that the bar owner emailed to the media earlier this month. In it, Brennan touted the origins of her self-described “boozy sandwich shop” as a once-vacant corner bodega “with a rumored backroom illegal gun shop to boot.”
“Brennan signed the lease, gave notice and proceeded to spend over a year painstakingly gut-renovating the space with an uncompromising vision — a surf club vibe with a large concrete horseshoe bar, massive accordion windows, and cheekily wallpapered bathrooms,” the news release stated. “Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping it.”
An earlier Gothamist report noted that the authenticity of the so-called original bullet hole-ridden wall couldn’t be verified — not even by Brennan herself.
The controversial bar remained open for business during Saturday’s protest, as close to a dozen customers sat around the bar while Brennan mixed cocktails, according to the news site. Meanwhile, protesters outside broke into a loud chant of “bye-bye, Becky.”
“I grew up here for 54 years,” said resident Stephanie Simms, who spoke at the protest. “I watched Colt 45 being bought. I have drank it in my years. Yes, it was a cheap drink [and] it was in a brown paper bag — but it destroyed lives. So why is it something that you want to monopolize on?”
Amid the chaos, organizers presented the restaurant owner with a list of demands, which included a spoken apology or a press release, the removal of the “bullet hole” wall and a commitment to attend meetings of the Crown Heights Tenant Union, among other things.
Thank you all for your continued input and support, as our list of demands are here. This list has been compiled from…
There’s no word on if Brennan will respond to the demands.