On Tuesday, Gothamist published an article about a new bar that opened in my neighborhood of Crown Heights Brooklyn. As a New York native, I have seen a fair share of gentrification in my home borough, and have taken it in relative stride. I don’t exactly welcome the changes that are happening, but I do see some of the benefits of better grocery stores and healthier food options that the new restaurants have to offer. I’m a rare New Yorker, I didn’t grow up in one neighborhood for my entire life, I had the wonderful privilege of moving all around the city in my 27 years. I was born in Park Slope, raised in Bed-Stuy, lived in South Ozone Park (FKA Jamaica) Queens, and moved back to Brooklyn. In between all of those moves I’ve also gone to schools and worked all over Brooklyn. This experience has allowed me to interact and connect with people from all walks of life and different backgrounds. It has also taught me how to function when I explore other neighborhoods and equipped me with the necessary respect for other communities. Brooklyn is a home, it is a neighborhood, and I always said, “If you want to have a drink go to Manhattan. If you want to live come to Brooklyn”.
Even with Brooklyn being my home I don’t walk the streets like I own them because in a real estate market as unpredictable as New York I never know when I’ll be booted out. I currently live in a cute studio apartment right off Franklin avenue, the new trendy “hotspot”, with my boyfriend (#theatrebae) in a 2-family house owned by my aunt. #Theatrebae and I had our first date 2 years ago at Franklin Park on Franklin avenue, which was the first bar that popped up in the neighborhood, so us living 4 blocks away from our first date is a bit serendipitous. Before every night out #theatrebae and I ask the question “what fresh hell do you have in store for us tonight Brooklyn?” The fresh hell Clinton Hill had for us on one particular night was something I certainly didn’t expect.
We walked south of our apartment to Nostrand avenue, which was the avenue I lived off when I first moved back to Brooklyn in 2009. As we got closer to the corner I stopped dead in my tracks and he asked me repeatedly if I had been hurt. The truth was I had been hurt, a new bar was in place of an old bodega on St. Marks and Nostrand. The transformation of CH was spreading like some weird gross rash. Everyone seated in the bar certainly did not look like the people who patronized that bodega for the past 9 years I’ve lived here. They looked out at the passing people while sitting on their bar stools with their pompous faces sipping on their $12 cocktails like they owned the very ground those folks walked on. The Gothamist article that came out this week was about that bar, and what I discovered in that article was more sinister than I could ever imagine from just looking at the bar.
I will not name the bar because I do not give free publicity to places that blatantly disrespect a neighborhood and its community, I’ll just say it is on Nostrand avenue, which has been a little slow to the gentrification game, and that is exactly how I like it, and did I mention it has a bullet hole ridden wall, “great for Instagramming”? The owner’s words- certainly not mine. Sorry to all the newbies, but I want to preserve the neighborhood I live and love in, and would much rather have the beauty supply shops and bodegas I’ve frequented instead of bars and restaurants, especially ones that brag about the inherent violence that once occurred in this neighborhood.
This bar that was featured in the article not only sells $12 cocktails and has that bullet hole wall I told you about, but also sells its own brand of rosé in a 40oz bottle. Like I mentioned I grew up in Brooklyn, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the plain ol gritty. I’ve walked past the drug deals, avoided certain blocks because of unsavory activity, and watched heroin addicts lean forward slowly after their methadone treatments. I mention all of this to say that I’ve seen the effects drugs and alcohol, particularly the 40oz of malt liquor, has had on my community of beautiful black and brown people. I’ve seen the transformation these people have undergone after years and years of abuse and the thing they all have in common is the 40oz. I have friends who get triggering memories if they see the bottle discarded in the trash or smell the liquid on the breath of someone. I won’t get into those memories because they are not mine to share, but what I will say is the trivializing of the 40oz that this bar and its owner is doing is straight disrespectful to the community.
I know for the people that drink these 40oz bottles of rosé they are thinking “look at how cool I am! Do I look like a 90’s rapper?” and the answer is no you look wildly disrespectful to the people who have lived and maintained this community and have seen the effects 40s have on said community. You look disrespectful to the girl who only sees her mother on the next corner of said bar at the neighborhood liquor store who has been drinking 40s since the 80’s with the effects of missing teeth, sunken cheeks, and lost dreams visible. You look disrespectful to the young man whose father beat his ass senseless while being drunk from a 40oz. You look disrespectful to the mother who lost her child to either jail or death because of the influence they were under while drinking a 40oz. I digress because like I said their stories are not my own, but my story is how I’ve seen a decline in wealth and the incline of alcoholism and drug use in my community.
Bringing back the illusion of the 40oz, even if it is rose and not of the malt liquor persuasion is not nostalgic, it is a memory of a generation we would like to forget but can’t because the existence of the malt liquor brand of the 40oz is still thriving in our community and continuously ruining it. I challenge the owner of this bar to walk the half a block to the liquor store on the next corner so she can see, smell, and feel what the 40oz has done to the people who have lived in this community their entire lives. I challenge her to see that what she is trying to romanticize has pain attached to it. One block isn’t very far since I know she didn’t much enjoy walking the 3 blocks to Franklin avenue, as mentioned in the Gothamist article. And just in case that one block is still too far for Becca Brennan’s legs to carry her I will gladly have the 40oz frequenters pay a visit to her place of business, maybe after seeing their faces and hearing the effects this drink has had on their lives she might then understand that the 40oz isn’t as glamorous as she had hoped.