Brooklynites call for boycott of Greenpoint bar after owner’s alleged racism

Tommy’s Tavern protest
Kira tells a crowd of protesters her experience of the owner of Tommy’s Tavern, who she said shouted racist statements at her.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The owner of a notorious Greenpoint dive bar shouted racist slurs at a Black woman while she waited for a bus near the watering hole on June 7, the woman told protesters outside the establishment on Thursday.

“He was yelling things like he’s pissed off about Black protesters being in his neighborhood — which, A, I was not a protester, I was coming from work, and if I was a protester, who the f— cares, nobody cares about your opinion,” said Kira, who declined to give her last name. “He really was just pissed off at my mere presence.”

The Williamsburg resident organized the rally attended by dozens outside Tommy’s Tavern on Manhattan Avenue and Freeman Street to protest the owner and his business, saying that locals need to be aware of his alleged racism.

“I’ve definitely had my fair share of racism, but for whatever reason, this time it hit me hard,” she said in tears at the June 18 demonstration. “I’m just so upset that in 2020 in Brooklyn, New York, I can’t stand and wait for the bus, like peacefully, and it’s really disgusting.”

The northern Brooklynite posted about her experience on Twitter, with a video showing the man giving her the middle finger.

The bar and its management have drawn headlines before, including when the owner reportedly punched local district leader Nick Rizzo in the face in 2015. The politico said he was socked for stepping up to help a bartender after the owner refused to let her leave.

The tavern also has a history of serving the self-proclaimed far-right gang with ties to white supremacists known as the “Proud Boys.” The group’s founder Gavin McInnes reportedly convened a meeting at Tommy’s Tavern in 2016, according to an archived article by the neighborhood blog Bedford and Bowery.

The neighborhood itself is no stranger to acts of bigotry. There have also been anti-Asian tirades on signs at McGolrick Park, swastikas scribbled onto a local restaurant, and other Nazi emblems littering local streets. Most recently, white supremacist stickers popped up around the area in April.

Greenpoint resident Maria Chavez, who helped organize the recent protest, called on the neighborhood to boycott businesses with racist ties, hoping to cut off revenues from Tommy’s Tavern once it reopens in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Any business that participates in white supremacy just is irrelevant and no longer belongs in our neighborhoods,” she said. “We need to support only businesses that are anti-racist from here on out. This is the 21st century, times are now different.”

Local Councilman Steve Levin, who lives near the bar, called it “unacceptable” that the business was catering to bigots, saying he would not be patronizing the dive anytime soon.

“I think it’s unacceptable that the establishment is catering to white supremacist organization and that [the owner] harasses people in our neighborhood because they happen to be black,” Levin said. “I’m in favor of any efforts to boycott it, and any efforts to make sure that the community at large knows.”

Tommy’s Tavern, which is currently closed, did not respond to a request for comment.