According to Yelp’s content guidelines, reviews should strictly address the “core of the consumer experience,” meaning they ought to ignore “a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, [or] extraordinary circumstances.” It is in adherence to these rules that the Yelp review page for Crown Heights’ controversial sandwich shop and bar Summerhill has an “Active Cleanup Alert.” It’s unclear if parsing employment practices and political ideologies from the “core” experience of a place is possible, but the warning stands.
While the 15 (previously 17, but two reviews have been removed since this article was input to WordPress) current reviews for Summerhill are overwhelmingly negative, they feature coded, or at least muted language, perhaps in order to meet Yelp’s community standards. For instance, there are no mentions of colonization or racism on the page, as there were on the flyers that announced the July 23 protest.
Instead, Francine S. said that it is, “regardless of any controversy surrounding this place, “ that she offered her opinion. She doesn’t “know how anyone can give it a genuinely positive review.”
Meanwhile, Nicholas L. didn’t enjoy his meal, “because protesters were outside yelling.” Given that he wishes, “the owner had stronger morals and was more educated on the community,” it seems the controversy and his dining experience were inseparable, even by Yelp’s standard.
“Well,” Brian D. wrote, “I had to come see and try this place. Being from Brooklyn and watching the all the changes I thought I’d come try it.” Yelp standards be damned, Brian D. didn’t hide the fact that his review was prompted by the news coverage surrounding Summerhill. Apparently the place is bad independent of being a lightning rod for gentrification, though: “Rude staff, hair in food, terrible watery drinks and they really didn’t care about what I had to say. Pick anywhere else in the neighborhood Would give 0 stars. But not allowed,” Brain D. griped. The few positive reviews all mention something about how Summerhill is “exactly what this neighborhood has been wanting for,” to quote Nubbs S., who greeted Summerhill with a “yearning” feeling.
Eli A., in particular, was pleased to find the “boozy sandwich shop.” He, “was walking down Nostrand ave last Friday and felt hotter than Robinson Crusoe in an oven,” when he came across Summerhill.
Following the second heated protest in a month last weekend, calls from community leaders for the restaurant to close, flyers continually posted calling for a boycott, and an “emergency town hall meeting” tonight, which Summerhill owner Becca Brennan will attend, it’s hard to see how anyone could, at this moment, eat a meal at Summerhill, let alone write a review of it, that is not political. Yelp, why do you ask the impossible of your volunteer reviewers? Food and politics are not inherently separate entities.
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