On Monday, a wildly tone deaf press release landed in the inboxes of a variety of local journalists. Intended to promote the offerings and “surf club-style” energy of a new “boozy sandwich shop” in a former Crown Heights bodega, it lacked any self-awareness or respect for Crown Heights’ history and longtime community. In addition to epitomizing the type of pricey, upscale eatery ($12 #Vanlife cocktail, anyone? How ’bout a 40oz of rosé in a brown paper bag?) which many locals can’t afford to eat at, which drives up real estate values and contributes to the displacement of areas’ deeply rooted lower-income residents, the restaurant, Summerhill, boasted of its original “bullet hole-ridden wall” and “rumored backroom illegal gun shop,” thus glorifying violence in the name of being urban-chic.
Without the press release, it is highly possible Summerhill would’ve never made it into the annals of gentrifier business slip-ups. Now, though, it joins Crow Hill and Beast of Bourbon among Brooklyn bars which attempted to reclaim signifiers of urban poverty as novelties and got called out for it.
Summerhill founder, “reformed corporate tax attorney” and Toronto transplant Becca Brennan apologized to Gothamist a day after the PR fiasco: “I truly never meant it that way, but I recognize that it was insensitive,” she said, “I was excited to keep the wall as a shout out to the different businesses that occupied the space before us but my intention was misinterpreted and I’m sorry for that.”
Despite Summerhill’s claims it has, “quickly become a favorite among locals as a day-drinking magnet,” locals are organizing an open forum outside Summerhill (637 Nostrand Ave.) this Saturday from 2:30 to 4:30pm. “[W]e will gather outside the bar for an open forum for anyone from the community who wants to speak on this bar/share thoughts/history/feelings,” the event’s Facebook page reads. It goes on to succinctly and articulately speak for the Crown Heights community, expressing a sentiment undoubtedly shared by many other Brooklyn neighborhoods forced to helplessly look on as new businesses arrive with little care for the people they’re helping displace. Summerhill’s press release, the description reads, essentially had, “the aim of profiting by perpetuating violent and ridiculous stereotypes all while disrespecting and wrongfully appropriating a history that does not belong to the owner of this bar. The owner, Becca Brennan, hails the bar as an ‘oasis’ – yet erases and diminishes the voices of POC by refusing to engage in discussion.”
All are invited to attend, or simply stand in solidarity.