CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn - A new bar on Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn is swirling in controversy over a so-called "bullet ridden wall" on the inside.
The owner of the "Summerhill" is being criticized for using it as a marketing tool. It's drawing outrage in the neighborhood. Over a hundred people turned out Thursday evening for a community meeting to send a message that's the bar's decor is offensive and distasteful. This is the third protest of Summerhill in the past few months. The bar opened only recently.
The controversy started when the bar's owner, Becca Brennan, Instagrammed a photo of a cocktail in front of what appeared to be bullet holes in the wall of her restaurant.
"Biggest misconception is I used this for a marketing tool, I kept the wall for a reason, I'm keeping it for the same reason, I'm keeping the integrity of a 100-year-old building intact," said Brennan.
Angry residents say she's both exploiting and glorifying the neighborhood's violent past to boost her business.
"You have to understand what our pain is when we see stuff like that and you put black stereotypes there," one unidentified woman shouted during the meeting. "Take the wall down it's a simple thing."
Brennan arrived and bravely took on the room full of outrage and anger, the people claiming she's been insensitive and has hurt and offended an entire community.
"She's out of touch with black people, she never experienced violence as we have, she never had to experience or hear bullets flying, she never experienced crime we had to go through in our community," said Natherlene Bolden.
Things got vocal and heated. One of Brennan's harshest critics, State Assembly Member Diana Richardson angrily confronted Brennan.
"Do you get it, are you trying to get it, are you willing to get it? Do you want to be a part of this community or we will protest you every day. We will shut you down," said Richardson, who represents District 43, which includes Crown Heights. "You don't want an uprising in this community, you don't. Humble yourself before us because we are the community and if you don't think we have power to shut you down, you are very wrong."
Owner Brennan has since acknowledged the holes are not from bullets but rather from damage left by the previous business. She said she meant no ill intent or malice. She apologized for her "bad humor."
Critics say it's neither enough nor sincere. They chanted "shut her down."
"I'm a business owner, this is on the inside, it's not offending anyone outside, if you're offended by it," Brennan trailed off, meaning people don't have to come inside.
Brennan also insists she's explained it to any customer who has asked her about the controversy and those customers seem to be ok with it. "A lot of my support is at my bar right now, waiting for me," said Brennan.
After two harsh protests, she said she wanted to be present at the meeting and face her critics head on.
"I came to listen to the community because the only other chances I've had is protest, people screaming at me while I'm at my business so this is the first opportunity to be calm and rational and I appreciate that but a lot of things said (tonight) were not true they create their own story, its frustrating, nothing I say will every be good enough for this group," Brennan said sadly.
There's nothing in the law to force her to take down the walk or plaster over it. Whether she bows to community pressure is something else. Right now, the business owner says the wall stays.