Locals pan new Brooklyn restaurant’s ‘bullet-ridden’ wall

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

If you’re thinking of starting a new business one day that pays homage to the area’s history, you may want to be a little careful about the history.

That’s what newbie restaurateur (and former tax attorney) Becca Brennan found out after opening Summerhill, a cocktail bar and “boozy” sandwich shop in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section. Brennan, a transplant from Canada, thought it would be fun to promote her business by emphasizing the location’s dubious past as an illegal gun outlet. Her marketing plan didn’t exactly go over well with the community, according to this report from the New York Daily News.

“Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping it,” Brennan pronounced in her news release announcing the restaurant’s opening. “Originally” might have been stretching it. According to Eater.com, the holes in the wall turned out to be from cosmetic damage. Mistake No. 1.

Mistake number two came with the restaurant’s prominent advertising of its Forty Ounce Rosé — a mixture of wine and malt liquor. Malt liquor was a popular drink among African American residents in the neighborhood back in the day. Was this a racial slur? At first, Brennan refused to comment, saying only that “I’m not an authority (and) don’t feel comfortable commenting on anything other than my business.”  Unfortunately, the fact that the drink is served out of a brown paper bag didn’t exactly help her case.

Regardless, the damage was done. And some neighbors are furious at what some consider to be her inappropriate marketing that exploits the increasingly gentrified area’s past. Over the weekend more than 100 local residents showed up to protest the restaurant, hanging signs that read “this is what gentrification looks like” and chanting “bye-bye Becky.”

Brennan has since issued two apologies.

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