Summerhill (Hipster Racism & Gentrification)

Summerhill, a bar / sandwich shop in Crown Heights Brooklyn, has been making waves for the last few days.  The restaurant has been open for roughly one month, but recently sent out a press release stating the bar was “Instagramable” because of a “bullet hole-ridden wall” and serving forty ounce rosé in paper bags.

bullet image from Summerhill Instagram

First, it is important to point out that Crown Heights has been undergoing gentrification for the last 15 years.  According to the Census Bureau, from 2000 to 2012 the white population of the neighborhood increased from 3.5% to 12.4% while the black/African American population decreased from 83.6% to 76.8% (based on NTA “North Crown Heights).  In the last five years the trend has continued.

The owner of Summerhill is a white woman named Becca Brennan, which means she is literally a ‘Becky,’ from Toronto.  She has only lived in the neighborhood for two years and identifies as a “reformed corporate tax attorney.”  In an interview with Gothamist she stated “As someone who lives on Nostrand, I was getting tired of walking to Franklin,” Brennan said. “It’s three blocks, but it’s three long blocks. You just deserve something close, and a hang out, especially if you live on New York [Avenue] or Schenectady or something like that.”  Comments like these have lead to signs being placed around Crown Heights quoting the Brennan.

eater ny summerhillimage from Eater NY

The bar’s bullet holes and “rumored backroom illegal gun shop” authenticity has come into question and the use of violence in communities of color as a marketing tool has been roundly condemned.  Serving forty ounce rosé in paper bags is an obvious use of a stereotype of black people.  The juxtaposition of the forty in a bag and rosé is a great example of hipster racism, where supposedly it is not racist because it is supposed to be ironic or funny.

rose.jpg      image from Summerhill Instagram

Brennan’s early response to the backlash was pretty terrible.  As a Facebook comment she made “a joke about her tan in response to being called white in the Eater article.”  In a later interview with Gothamist she also backed out of her plan for serving rosé, stating “I also want to clarify about our bottles of rosé,” Brennan added. “We serve them in ice buckets and we have them on our menu because rosé is delicious, and it’s a great deal for what amounts to more than a standard bottle of wine. We have no intention of serving them in any other way.”

Whatever the argument, a white woman is attempting to capitalize off of aestheticizing the violence and poverty people of color have experienced in Crown Heights. Neighborhood residents are planning a protest and yelp has been inundated with negative reviews.

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