Report: Coney restaurant backs out of NRA event in face of local outrage

Shell shocker: Eatery faces backlash over hosting NRA fund-raiser after mass shooting
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The owners of Coney Island eatery Gargiulo’s have reportedly bowed to pressure from local pols, officials, and residents and cancelled its controversial April fund-raiser for the National Rifle Association.

The lawyer for the family that owns Gargiulo’s wrote in a letter obtained by NY1 that the restaurant was a more-than-century-old institution in the neighborhood, but that it had never dealt with a controversy of this magnitude, and decided to cancel the event in light of the response from locals.

“They have never had a national political issue land on their doorstep,” the lawyer wrote. “They thank everyone for their interest in this important dialogue and have decided it best to cancel the event.”

Earlier this week, a slew of local pols and officials — including Borough President Adams and Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) — condemned plans for the Brooklyn Friends of the National Rifle Association’s April 12 event in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people. The event was slated to include a raffle giving away a shotgun, two pistols, and two rifles.

After NY1 reported the cancellation, Treyger released a joint statement with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Marine Park), Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Senator Diane J. Savino (D–Coney Island) and National Action Network Northeast Regional Director Minister Kirsten John Foy praising the top brass at Gargiulo’s for cancelling the fund-raiser, adding that cancelling the event was the right move given the national debate over gun violence, and the neighborhood’s long struggle with gun violence.

“We have worked hard to address gun violence in this neighborhood, and an event like this, particularly after the Parkland tragedy, was simply not in the best interests of our community,” the pols said. “Gargiulo’s has been an important and supportive partner of the community for decades, and the decision to cancel this event shows that Gargiulo’s has heard and respects the concerns of our community.”

News of the cancellation came just a day after co-owner Michael Russo told angry locals at Community Board 13’s Feb. 28 public meeting that the restaurant had no power to break its contract with the gun group and cancel the event.

“We’re stuck in a hard place, because we are in the community, we care about the community, but we’re in a position where we’re contractually bound to [the event]. The only thing that would influence it is if the NRA cancels it. We can’t,” said Russo, who’s also a member of the community board.

A rep for Gargiulo’s said management had no comment about the cancellation.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.