Like a cigar, sometimes a bullet hole is just a bullet hole. Unfortunately for Becca Brennan — a New York City restaurateur from Canada — there are times when a bullet hole is a sign of stereotyping and gentrification. But first, the back story . . .
The 31-year-old Canadian wanted to own her own restaurant. She immigrated to the Big Apple to realize that dream. It’s a tremendously competitive field, what with half of Top Chef runner-ups trying to open a sandwich shops. Or something.
Ms. Brennan needed a hook. Something to set her eatery apart.
Her choice: emphasize her building’s reputed past as a black market gangland gun shop. She wrote a tongue-in-cheek press release announcing the opening of Summerhill, emphasizing the eaterie’s gangsta connections. The press release states:
Brennan was a corporate tax attorney with daydreams of opening a boozy sandwich shop until she discovered the perfect piece of real estate around the corner from her Crown Heights apartment: a long-vacant corner bodega (with a rumored backroom illegal gun shop to boot)….
[She] 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. (Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and yes, we’re keeping it.)
We don’t know much about Crown Heights; New York City doesn’t welcome our kind. But this sounds innocuous enough. Ms. Brennan needed a hook and saved on patching-up the rest room. Win/win.
Then again, we’re just a Louisiana-born, Pennsylvania-raised Detroiter descended from Ukrainian steelworkers and Mexican housekeepers. What do we know about racism, class, or stereotyping?
Not much, judging from the reaction of Crown Heights residents.
Some of them took to the streets, claiming that the bullet holes represented gentrification, racism, hatred and a failure of the Canadian immigrant to exercise her “duty” to assimilate into the neighborhood’s dominant culture. (As far as we know, no Crown Heights culture has taken responsibility for gangland shootouts.)
Ms. Brennan also advertised the availability of Forty Ounce Rose,a wine in a bottle designed to mimic the famous Colt 45. Served in a déclassé paper bag at the gastropub, for effect. That may have horrified the locals almost as much as the bullet holes.
As far as wine etiquette goes, we believe that use of a paper bag is an appropriate way for an imbiber to avoid the embarrassment attendant with drinking a rosé. But we’d also like to note that we can walk to a party store five blocks from our home and buy a six-pack of the stuff for the going rate of one drink at NYC gastropub prices.
Anyway, Summerhill stayed open during the protests during which, we understand, racist slogans were chanted by the protesters against Ms. Brennan (or maybe they were just making fun of her name).
The beleaguered owner has since apologized for her thoughtcrime. Presumably all will be well going forward.
We’re glad that the protests didn’t turn into a defensive gun use — or worse, a “should have been a defensive gun use” — for the Canadian lady, as we understand that Crown Heights has a history of rioting and gang violence
The biggest disappointment, though? It turns out that there never really was an illicit gun store on the property. The so-called bullet holes were probably just cosmetic damage from construction.
I guess the protesters weren’t the only ones shooting blanks.