Restaurants around Atlanta are expressing support for protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement, posting messages of solidarity to social media, providing links to bail funds, and even closing to allow employees to attend marches over the weekend.
The last three days saw hundreds of people gather throughout the city in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Several restaurants in downtown Atlanta and portions of Buckhead sustained damage during the protests Friday evening. But by early Saturday morning, residents and volunteers appeared with brooms, garage bags, and other supplies to help clean and shore up damaged businesses along Peachtree Street in Buckhead and Marietta Street near Centennial Olympic Park.
Despite suffering damage on Saturday evening, Broad Street sandwich shop Reuben’s Deli, owned by Claudio Furgiuele, posted to social media on Sunday morning the torn feelings over the destruction of property by a small group of protesters, while not dismissing the senseless deaths of unarmed Black men and women.
“We cannot live this way,” the post reads. “We can’t have young men think destruction is ok, we can’t have young men being killed, or afraid to go out. Please Lord, use this time to bring us together.”
A GoFundMe was created on behalf of downtown Atlanta restaurant Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, which also suffered damage during the weekend protests. So far, the campaign has raised over $5,000 to help with repairs and other costs needed to reopen the restaurant on Forsyth Street in the historic Fairlie-Poplar district. While frustrated by the damage to his restaurant, owner Derrick Hayes began the clean-up process at Big Dave’s on Monday, after reaching out on social media offering assistance to other area businesses. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Hayes and his employees have also found time to feed healthcare workers at hospitals around Atlanta.
Even as so many Atlanta restaurants face uncertain economic futures following a forced month-long shutdown due to the health crisis, owners like Jen and Emily Chan of JenChan’s on Carroll Street in Cabbagetown felt compelled to close their restaurant Saturday to allow employees to attend the marches.
“I made phone calls to our staff to see how they felt. The conversations turned tearful and I immediately knew that we weren’t going to pretend everything was okay,” Emily Chan tells Eater Atlanta of why they closed the restaurant.
The Chans paid their staff an average of the tips each employee would have received for working on Saturday and shut down for the day.
Restaurants like Kimball House and 8ARM posted signs to their buildings in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and offered links on social media to organizations like the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides support and financial resources to people arrested or prosecuted during protests.
Several of 8ARM’s employees attended weekend marches and plan to lobby local and state leaders for social justice reform.
“As a restaurant partially owned and ran by minorities of all kinds, we empathize with the pain and suffering that Black people, especially, have and continue to endure, whether it is through the lack of access to adequate education, jobs with living wages, and fair housing; gentrification; subtle or subversive racism by white allies; racist policing; or outright murder,” a portion of a statement provided to Eater from 8ARM reads. “It is the responsibility of our entire community to work and fight for social justice for Black lives. We have signs up in our windows for support, but we know it takes more than optical support.”
Newly-opened Thai restaurant Talat Market in Summerhill is donating what it can to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, and Koinonia Coffee, owned by Eduardo Lowe, plans to donate all of its June profits to the organization.
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At Koinonia Coffee, we are not shy when it comes to standing in solidarity with our community. We often use the phrase #DoCommunity, because we believe that simply saying you are for Community is not enough, one must #DoCommunity as well. So during this time of change and in response to the unjust murder of George Floyd and so many innocent Black lives, we will be contributing ALL of our profits in June to THE ATLANTA SOLIDARITY FUND. This fund is focused on bailing out protestors who are marching in solidarity for George Floyd. Koinonia will always stand with our community in saying... #BlackLivesMatter And as always, Thank You Community for your support! Now let keep Doing Community together! -Eduardo Lowe, Founder of Koinonia Coffee ATL
Joy Huffman, owner of Sweet Auburn escape room bar and restaurant Clues and Cocktails, offered ways non-Black allies can continue to help the Black community and businesses like hers going forward. Those tips included learning more about police brutality and its disproportionate impact on the Black community, speaking up when one sees racial injustice occurring and supporting social justice reform, and simply reaching out to friends in black and brown communities to ask how they are doing.
For Demayne and Tracee Ginyard, the owners of catering business and taco pop-up 95th St. Taco, 2020 has already been a trying year for the five-year-old small business. The Ginyards had to pause their pop-up indefinitely, put their search for a permanent restaurant location on hold, and pivot to selling t-shirts and other merchandise online to stay afloat.
“95th St. Tacos is a community-first company, so our hearts go out to the community in which we serve and our fellow small business entrepreneurs that are suffering through the present civil unrest and the aftermath of the pandemic, as well as its effect on our city,” the Ginyards tell Eater in an email.
Hailing from LA, the couple say they’ve seen protests like those happening in Atlanta before and are realistic, but seem hopeful. They speak of a “brighter day on the way,” even as people “struggle to stay strong.”
“We are here, we are with you, we are one.”