The Strand Café in Brooklyn has been accused of handing out Halloween candy to white kids while turning away black children.
Oma Holloway, who is on the advisory Community Board 3, has said she and fellow board member Michael Catlyn watched one of the café employees tell three separate groups of black children who were dressed for Halloween that they weren’t participating in handing out candy.
When a white mother and her kids came in, however, they were given candy. Holloway and Catlyn called out the barista immediately.
“You got to be kidding me,” Holloway recalls saying to him. “Little black kids walk in and you don’t have candy for them, but you have candy for the white kids. This is unacceptable, here or anywhere.”
Holloway went on to say, “I’m on the community board and I understand he doesn’t have to participate [in Halloween festivities], but to do something so blatantly discriminatory, this is not acceptable and as a patron, I’m not accepting it.”
The neighborhood in Bed-Stuy has been described as a “historically black neighborhood that is becoming increasingly gentrified.”
The owner of the café has attempted to explain what went down on Halloween on Facebook, calling it a “misunderstanding.”
“We didn’t give out no candies yesterday to anyone,” he wrote. “We only had few snacks for sale. The guy was there working he is very new and don’t speak English very well, that is the reason he couldn’t explain it to them. I feel really bad and sorry for this misunderstanding. I grow up in this neighborhood, behavior like this with kids I will never tolerate from employee. We all are human and one family. Hope I did make it clear.”
Other members in this private Facebook group asked for more information and he responded.
“Explanation- yesterday when kids came to our cafe, asking for Candy’s. He told them we don’t have any Candy to give but they saw some candy right next to the register, which is was for sale only. So they thought we giving out the candys but not to them. It was just a big misunderstanding. I’m working on the video from yesterday so you guys can see anything like that happen. Soon I get the video I will post it, if it’s necessary.”
The neighborhood is so upset with the café that they have been leaving numerous one-star reviews on Yelp with most of the reviewers calling them out for being racist.
The owner then took to Yelp to try and explain the situation again.
“Hi there. It seems there has been a misunderstanding with regards to an incident about trick or treating,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, we did not participate in trick or treating this year. We have some pastries for sale, but it was impossible for us to hand out candy to some children and not others because we did not have any candy to hand out. If a child received an item, it was because it was purchased by a parent, not because we favor children over others. That would be completely inappropriate as well as against our core values of decency. We love our community, and look forward to serving ALL our friends and neighbors. Thank you.”
Holloway finds this excuse lackluster because she witnessed what happened and the white children were dressed in costumes and she saw no money exchanged for the candy they were given.
“I had a pretty clear vantage point,” Holloway said. “That’s not what was going on.”
Holloway is now taking the issue to the other community board members and to New York City’s Commission on Human Rights in an effort to figure out the next step.
“I’m not here to hurt businesses,” she stated. “But it’s situations like this that perpetuate tension and we all need to be held accountable.”