The five Vince’s Crab House locations will reopen Monday, the operator said, after a nine-day closure prompted by an ongoing boycott by black customers over his racist posts on social media.
About 100 protesters descended on the restaurants in Middle River and Fallston this weekend after people uncovered Facebook posts by the operator, Vince Meyer, mocking Black Lives Matter protesters; expressing support for George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin; and using a racial slur.
Occurring amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police, the Maryland crab houses boycott is the latest instance in a long history of black people using their money as a potent political tool, experts say.
Vince’s Crab House serves a 75% black customer base, according to Meyer, who said he plans a second attempt at an apology video this weekend.
“I have a ton of remorse,” Meyer said Tuesday. “I haven’t been able to express it. Obviously my apology video wasn’t apologetic enough. ... I was kind of blindsided. I wasn’t prepared. Some of the stuff was so old I had forgotten I had even said these things.”
Screenshots of Meyer’s social media accounts that circulated online included one from last week that said: “There is one place I bet the protesters/rioters won’t light on fire or break into or even block the road to ... the social services buildings.” That was followed by four laughing emoji.
Meyer’s 5-year-old chocolate Labrador, Dixie, panted in his gravel driveway in Joppa during a brief interview Tuesday as an armed, private security officer in a Thin Blue Line T-shirt and hat stood guard nearby.
Convincing black customers that his remorse is sincere, and not just aimed at getting them back in the door of his restaurants, Meyer said, is “going to be the hardest part.”
“How do you prove to somebody that believes you’re racist that you’re not?” he said. “I still have a ton of support from the black community. As they slowly come back to my store, I’ll be sure to shake hands with them and thank them for their business and thank them for accepting my apology.”
Kellie Vaughan, a regular customer from East Baltimore who organized the boycott, said she and Meyer’s other black customers are still waiting to hear him denounce his racist posts.
“What I want to hear from his mouth is the denouncement of his previous comments — not really for my community, but for those who are his friends and are used to him talking like that, for them to see,” Vaughan said. “Personally, I don’t need an apology. But I need to see him do that. They need to know the power of the black community and the black dollar."
Vaughn said she didn’t ask him to close the crab houses for nine days.
“He has a right to have a business,” Vaughan said. “But we don’t plan to stop demonstrating until he demonstrates where he stands with the black community after the remarks he has already made. I do believe he may be remorseful, but you don’t know unless you talk directly to that person.”
The boycott is holding Meyer accountable for “blatant disrespect and disregard” for the people who patronize his businesses, said Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead, associate professor of African American studies at Loyola University Maryland and host of “Today with Dr. Kaye,” a talk show on WEAA-88.9FM.
“There are a large number of black people saying ‘I will not go back there. The entire time I was spending money in your establishment, you were holding a level of disdain and disregard for me as a black person in America, both as a customer and a consumer and a citizen in this country,’” she said.
African Americans have a proud history of political boycotts, Whitehead noted, most famously the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation, in the 1950s. Boycotts are “the ultimate protest," she said, allowing participants to collectively take control with their wallets.
“You feel like you are actively engaging in making a change,” she said. “You’re taking the power of the black dollar, and you are consciously deciding to move your money. ... That’s how you hold people accountable. You make the decision of how to spend your money. You change the ways in which people see us and respond to us."
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Baltimore Sun reporters McKenna Oxenden and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.