The owner of a controversial Brooklyn bar says she’s not going to take down or cover up the feature of a ‘bullet-damaged’ wall on her property after some residents accused her of racial insensitivity.
Becca Brennan, the 31-year-old owner of Summerhill, a ‘boozy sandwich shop’ in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, spoke with angry locals for the first time on Thursday since a press release for the restaurant mentioned ‘bullet holes’ — really just a damaged wall — as part of its authentic appeal.
‘I’m sorry I have a sense of humor,’ Brennan told the heated crowd. ‘I was more trying to focus on the fact that I was keeping the integrity of this one hundred-year-old building, and trying not to cover up the history of my neighborhood and that corner.’
Becca Brennan (pictured), the 31-year-old owner of the controversial Brooklyn bar Summerhill, told residents on Thursday that she’s not going to take down or cover up the feature of a ‘bullet-damaged’ wall on her property
This is the first time Brennan (left) spoke with locals since a July press release for the restaurant mentioned ‘bullet holes’ — really just a damaged wall — as part of its authentic appeal
The meeting, organized by local district leader Geoffrey Davis, comes after protests erupted in the restaurant in July amid Brennan’s decision to feature the wall, sell wine in 40 ounce bottles and suggest she might wrap beverages in paper bags.
Dozens met up outside Summerhill to speak out against the ‘bar’s commodification of stereotypes that only serve to hurt the community.’
The area has been rapidly gentrifying in recent years and the owner – Canadian former corporate lawyer Becca Brennan – has been accused of racism for trading on the neighborhood’s African American roots.
Protesters gathered outside Summerhill in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in July to protest against its ‘racist’ use of symbols of the area’s troubled past to brand itself. One such feature was a fake ‘bullet-riddled wall’
User Ang Low said: ‘#whitepeople move to hood, make fun of our struggle.. #ImDone @ALSHARPTON_REV @EaterNY @Gothamist “fake gun holes” #summerhill ..Smh #bk.’ The supposed bullet-riddled wall is pictured in his post
The area has been rapidly gentrifying in recent years before Canadian former corporate lawyer Becca Brennan opened the bar
One protester address the crowd outside the bar which was opened by a Canadian former corporate tax lawyer
Brennan, wasn’t in attendance for the protest but did release a statement admitting that some of her ideas are ‘insensitive’.
As part of the bar’s opening publicity, Summerhill issued a press release in July featuring a mixed drink next to a damaged wall described as ‘bullet hole-ridden’ and was supposedly part of a ‘rumored backroom illegal gun shop’ in the past.
‘Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping it,’ it read.
The ‘bullet-hole ridden wall’ is actually a fake. It was originally damaged and Brennan decided to make a feature out of it — a decision she later admitted was ‘cheeky’.
Another of the bar’s gimmicks is to sell rose wine in 40 ounce bottles, which Brennan even suggested could come in paper bags.
However, such features have not gone down well with many of the local population.
One protester told the Daily News in July: ‘People from my culture used to sit on the corner and drink, and they’re trying to profitize that. And that is their marketing. It’s not cheeky. It’s offensive.’
Customers are pictured on the bar’s Instagram with a bottle of the Forty Ounce Rose . The owner even suggested the bottles could come in paper bags
The owner posted an Instagram photo of the 40 ounce wine bottle on the bicycle of one of her barmaids
Gothamist asked for clarification on the symbolism, to which Brennan said in an email: ‘I’m not an authority so don’t feel comfortable commenting on anything other than my business—a new bar and restaurant that locals (/my neighbors) seem to really enjoy and appreciate.’
Brennan hails from Toronto, Canada, and attended New York University and worked as corporate tax attorney for Bristol-Myers Squibb before moving to Crown Heights two years ago.
Natherlene Bolden, a founding member of the Crown Heights Tenants Union and resident of the neighborhood since 1978, voiced her criticism of the establishment.
‘Actions speak louder than words,’ said the 55-year-old.
‘You are making money off of… negative aspects in our community which, you know, you’re happy when these things go on because you can make money off of it.’
‘And it’s like you’re not thinking about the black people or the long-term residents in the community. Or maybe you are thinking about them but they don’t matter.’
Brennan released a statement to the initial backlash in July saying that she planned to ‘talk to (her) neighbors about positive ways we can more involved, including with other local small businesses, artist and charities.’
It said: ‘I deeply apologize for any offense that my recent comments might have caused.
‘I did not intend to be insensitive to anyone in the neighborhood, and I am sorry that my words caused pain. I made light of serious issues and that was wrong.’
Owner Becca Brennan posted a statement justifying to the Instagram account and insist that she will do more to listen to the local community
Protest gathered outside the bar on Saturday after posting signs that read ‘This is what gentrification looks like’
Outside the bar, police were said to have threatened to shut the July protest down if too many people convened in the area and weren’t peaceful
Hundreds of people gathered at the protest in July after news articles about the bar angered many people
But the sentiment was already cosigned by people on social media who also voiced their disdain with the restaurant’s publicity stunt.
User Ang Low said: ‘#whitepeople move to hood, make fun of our struggle.. #ImDone @ALSHARPTON_REV @EaterNY @Gothamist “fake gun holes” #summerhill ..Smh #bk.’
‘Boycott Summerhill BK. Blatant racism. Trash. Go write a 1 star Yelp review,’ added Joanna Reynolds, posting a link to the shop’s yelp page.
On Instagram, Shanaya Amoy commented: ‘Get out. We don’t want you in our community. You are a culture vulture and you are not welcomed here. Your business will fail because you have disrespected the entire community. No one wants you here and we will not stop protecting until you shut down and go back to wherever you came from.’
‘This was even more of an insult by not seeing the wrongs in what you have done . No apology no nothing . You and anyone else who dares to support this place is disgusting,’ added another user.
One commented on Brennan’s absence from the protest and said: ‘YOU COULDNT EVEN SHOW YOUR FACE TODAY THATS WEAKNESS. WE WILL BE BACK.’
Summerhill also took a hit on Yelp, with many leaving one star reviews along with messages for the owner.
Thersea S said: ‘Awful. The owner should be ashamed of exploiting the past violence of this area. Can’t wait to see this business close.’
Joanna Reynolds posted the link to the bar’s Yelp reviews and told people to boycott Summerhill for ‘blatant racism’
On Instagram, Shanaya Amoy commented: ‘Get out. We don’t want you in our community. You are a culture vulture and you are not welcomed here. Your business will fail because you have disrespected the entire community. No one wants you here and we will not stop protecting until you shut down and go back to wherever you came from’
‘This was even more of an insult by not seeing the wrongs in what you have done . No apology no nothing . You and anyone else who dares to support this place is disgusting,’ added another user
Brennan was blasted by this user for not showing up to talk with protesters