Community members in Remington have rushed to show their support to Sweet 27, after the cafe’s owners shared on social media that the business has been the target of racist insults and vandalism in recent weeks.
In a Facebook post Thursday, owners said they had been the victim of three incidents in the past month, which included someone scrawling racist epithets on the restaurant’s outdoor seating area. Like many eateries, the restaurant has shuttered its indoor dining room since the pandemic and added tables outside.
Owner Suraj Bhatt said he had also heard people passing by shout racist insults like “You don’t belong here.” Vandals turned planters upside town. “This is very discouraging,” Bhatt said. “We are one of the businesses that was here when it was all boarded houses.” The incidents have made him wary of buying heat lamps to place outside, for fear of what might happen to them.
In an email, Jed Weeks of the Greater Remington Improvement Association called the cafe’s bar “a community living room,” and said: “It’s cowardly to attack any small business owner at this time, but it’s especially low to go after such a beloved immigrant-owned institution in our neighborhood.”
Weeks' organization has assisted various businesses in the neighborhood with setting up outdoor seating areas during the pandemic. He said that he believed Sweet 27 was the only business to be targeted by vandals, and also the only one owned by a non-white person.
Initially, Bhatt planned to just ignore the attacks, but said his wife encouraged him to go public when they continued to happen. A father of two young children, ages 5 and 3, “I don’t want them to think down the line, ‘Why don’t you speak up?’”
The response from friends and customers had been encouraging, in the form of text messages and social media posts. “I’m very touched with the amount of support we got... Maybe that will encourage people to go out and vote." He declined to report the incidents to law enforcement, saying he believed police are overstretched as it is. “The city’s dealing with so many things.”
It’s the first time Bhatt had experienced such hostility since moving to the United States from northern India nearly 17 years ago. Overall, the surrounding Remington community had been supportive of the business he started as a gluten-free bakery around 10 years ago. Sweet 27 has since expanded to include a sit-down restaurant serving Indian specialties like lamb vindaloo. “We became this big because people supported us all over these years,” he said.