UPDATE: A Crown Heights Cafe Jokes About Police Brutality to Sell Iced Tea

Photo via Imani Henry
Photo via Imani Henry

One of the specific to New York (we think? we don’t really know what it’s like anywhere else, so) pleasures is the sensory cornucopia available to the average flaneur on the city streets. Oh, some of the things that one experiences are not always what you’d call pleasant (i.e. the fetid smell of garbage on a summer street), but they are all, at least, abundant. And excess is always good, right? Well, wrong, but that’s not really the point right now. The point, we guess, is that among the many things designed to catch one’s eye and draw one’s attention are the chalkboard signs propped up outside many commercial establishments. While some of these signs are somewhat austere and just bear the names of whatever special food is on offer that day, other signs approach the level of works of art (standouts include Al Mar in DUMBO and Big Nose Full Body in Park Slope).  Whether via lovely chalk renderings of, we don’t know, a fish’s rainbow scales or topical quotes, these signs are advertising at its micro-level finest. But, well, as it turns out, sometimes these signs reveal more about an establishment than their creators might have intended. Like that they tacitly endorse one of the most divisive and racist policies in existence in New York City right now! Ugh. How embarrassing.

Via Brokelyn, we learned about the presence of just such a sign outside the Crown Heights cafe Chop Chop Grub Shop. The sign asks customers to “Stop and Frisk” their appetites! Which, you know, doesn’t make any sense! Because why would anyone want to put their appetites through such a debasing experience designed to intimidate and oppress those it targets? What did your appetite ever do to you? But also, beyond being nonsensical, the sign is also insensitive to all those people who have been stopped and frisked for no other reason besides the color of their skin. Stop and frisk is not a joke. The officially sanctioned harassment of huge swathes of this city’s population is not funny and shouldn’t be exploited in order to sell iced tea. This type of thing isn’t acceptable anywhere, but is also particularly offensive in a neighborhood which is rapidly changing and where the same people who have long been targeted by the police are now being priced out of their homes.

Community resident and activist Imani Henry is calling for a public apology from the owner of Chop Chop, and, in the meantime, has directed people to the restaurant’s Yelp page so that they can voice their discontent in a public forum. There’s been no word yet from owner Malcolm Sanz about the sign and about community residents’ dissatisfaction with it, but we will update you if he does speak out. In the meantime, there’s plenty of other places in Crown Heights to get your iced tea fix. We’d recommend going to one of those.

Update: Natalie Musumeci from DNAinfo spoke with Sanz and co-owner Otis Lockett, who were shocked at people’s outrage and claimed that it, “took [them] by surprise.” Lockett said, “I didn’t expect that anyone would take that from the sign.” He also said, “It’s topical and it’s something people are familiar with, and I thought it was something that would catch people’s attention.”

The thing is, of course, that just because something is “topical” and attention-getting, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to exploit to sell food. And, for most people, joking about police brutality is enough to kill the appetite pretty quickly.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. In August 2014, Chop Chop Shop decided to put out an insensitive sign poking fun at a serious issue in a community that does not find the subject of “Stop And Frisk” to be funny or taken lightly. The OWNER of this restaurant, and their staff, did not apologize. They gave this as a statement “It’s topical and it’s something people are familiar with, and I thought it was something that would catch people’s attention.”
    African Americans and people who aren’t African Americans but still have colored skin will not want to take part in your stupid insensitive jabs. Getting stopped by police for no reason is not something to joke about. Please take your business to another location where this attitude would be appreciated, you are not welcomed here in Crown Heights.
    To all people with colored skin, when a business insults and disrespect you, and then pretends they weren’t aware of their actions…why do you continue shopping there? Please spread the word about this issue to your friends, families, and neighbors. Do not give your hard earned money to Chop Chop Grub Shop.


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