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Toronto expat’s ‘bullet-holed’ Brooklyn restaurant slammed by critics

Longtime locals have pushed back against what they see as aggressive gentrification and selling the illusion of slumming it in their neighbourhood.

Protesters gather outside Summerhill restaurant on Saturday.

@ILvCrownHeights / Twitter

Protesters gather outside Summerhill restaurant on Saturday.

A controversial New York restaurant opened by a Toronto transplant has provoked protests in Brooklyn.

In late June, Torontonian Becca Brennan opened the upscale restaurant Summerhill in Crown Heights, a predominantly Black neighbourhood. But longtime locals have pushed back against what they see as aggressive gentrification and selling the illusion of slumming it in their neighbourhood.

Brennan's marketing for the restaurant, which is named for the affluent Toronto area where she grew up, promoted a "bullet hole" in the wall and drinking wine out of 40s in brown paper bags. Cocktails at the restaurant are $12 and one of the dishes bears the hipster-friendly name "Keep Austin Weird."

The "bullet hole" in the wall is likely due to moving and construction, reports the New York blog Gothamist.

Rally organizers criticized Brennan as out of touch with the neighbourhood and its history.

A cocktail in front of the purported

Summerhillbk / Instagram

A cocktail in front of the purported "bullet hole" at Summerhill restaurant.

A Facebook statement posted by protest co-organizer Justine Stephens said Brennan was "profiting by perpetuating violent and ridiculous stereotypes, all while disrespecting and appropriating a history that does not belong to the owner of this bar."

Up to 200 people protested outside the restaurant on Saturday, where they carried signs and chanted "Bye-bye, Becky."

Brennan declined to do an interview with Metro, but in an emailed statement she apologized for her actions.

"I deeply apologize for any offense that my recent comments might have caused. I did not intend to be insensitive to anyone in the neighborhood, and I am sorry that my words have caused pain," she wrote.

Brennan also wrote that she would reach out to community organizations like the Crown Heights Tenant Union, whose members were involved in the protests. "I recognize that I have more work to do to continue healing relationships with my neighbors," she added.

Rally organizers made several demands of Brennan, including that she apologize, remove the "bullet-holed" wall, and hire local people of colour at living wages.

Brennan's marketing pitch for Summerhill has not gone over well on social media.

New York journalist Brandon Gates tweeted, "This is disgusting. Shame on you, Summerhill."

Many others left negative comments on the review site Yelp, although there were also some supporters of the restaurant who stood up for "freedom of speech."

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