A group of regulars gathered on Saturday at a New York bar to support the owner who’s getting pushed out of the neighborhood by gentrification.
The city’s Public Advocate Letitia James was among Delissa Reynolds’ supporters who are searching for ways to save Bar Sepia before a Feb. 28 deadline. “How can you displace a business that received a top 50 small business award?” James said at the rally, according to WPIX-TV. “How can you displace something that is more than just a bar? This is an institution, it’s a family.”
Reynolds had a vision of what the dilapidated property could become when she opened the bar 14 years ago and made renovations. But the Prospect Heights neighborhood is changing. The building is under contract for sale, and the lease is unlikely to be renewed by the new owner.
Gentrification has swept away scores of small Black-owned businesses throughout the city. In April 2017, New York City comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that said higher rents in changing neighborhoods have caused the decline of Black-owned businesses from 2007 to 2012—even though the city’s economy is booming. New York is one of only three of the 25 largest cities across the nation to see a decline in Black-owned businesses: Detroit and Jacksonville are the other two.
Often, White-owned businesses that move into gentrifying neighborhoods disrespect the remaining Black residents. In one case, a new restaurant owner had the bright idea of marketing her business by offering 40-ounce bottles of wine, wrapped in brown paper bags, and served at tables with fake bullet holes in the wall. Longtime Black residents of the Brooklyn neighborhood called it a painful exploitation of stereotypes for profit.
While Reynolds continues to hope for a miracle, she was pleased by the outpouring of support. “I’m overwhelmed by the Tsunami of love right now,” she said, referring to the dozens of supporters who rallied at her bar on Saturday.