The owners of a black-owned business in Freeport say they are distinguished and held to higher standards than other restaurants after village officials ordered them to temporarily close last week.
Located in a shopping center on the Nautical Mile, the owners of Backyard Barbeque received a cease and desist letter from the village’s construction department on August 3 to shut down their business due to “quality of life violations.” , co-owner Kenneth Ware mentioned.
The village cited a case of violence outside the facility and said “this place has been a focal point of police attention.” The letter indicates that the restaurant “endangers the health, safety and well-being of those frequenting the premises and the surrounding community“.
Ware and a childhood friend, Michael Toney, took over the business in November from Ware’s father, Archie, who opened it in September 2018. Since he started operating the restaurant, Ware has said that he felt isolated for scrutiny. He said he had received “numerous visits” from the State Liquor Authority as well as the Nassau County Department of Health, and that he had also received a ticket to play music outdoors.
“We just don’t think we were treated fairly,” said Ware, 32, who recently filed an appeal against the village closure that allowed the business to reopen on Friday pending a hearing.
On Sunday, around 24 people gathered to support the owners outside the establishment, sometimes chanting, âMinding my Black Businessâ while listening to four loudspeakers.
Richard Paul, an intervention counselor at STRONG Youth, a Uniondale-based gang rights group, said the owners supported the organization, which hosted a youth violence forum last month that included people from Freeport, Roosevelt, Uniondale, Westbury and Hempstead. .
âMr. Ware shows that individuals in our communities can become successful entrepreneurs,â said Paul, adding âwhat message are we communicating to our young people if Backyard Barbeque is no longer allowed to stay in business when it is the same establishment which invited them into their doors and educated, fed and above all treated them like the family that we are. “
Senior Pastor Arthur L. Mackey Jr. of Roosevelt-based Mount Sinai Baptist Church Catherdral said the “discrimination” suffered by homeowners “is unacceptable.”
âWe are here to support the proud owners of Backyard Barbeque, a black-owned business that is moving forward and making a difference,â said Mackey Jr., a former resident of Freeport.
On June 20, according to the village, officials from Freeport said police saw 10 to 15 people fighting in the facility’s parking lot, and that someone “appeared to be hiding a handgun in their belt” and then escaped. This person was not arrested and both business windows were damaged, village officials said.
On June 21, a weapon was located in the flower bed of a nearby property, village officials said in the letter, as the location “was the center of police attention during the late hours. of the night with groups gathering in the parking lot. ”
A man was injured at a nearby restaurant, Ware said, and “rolled over in our parking lot.”
Ware said none of the incidents were directly related to his restaurant and although similar violence occurred elsewhere in Freeport, it did not result in business closures.
Village attorney Howard Colton, who confirmed the company had received a cease and desist letter, was unable to comment while the case is pending. Colton said a business owner has the right to a hearing to appeal a cease-and-desist letter, and once an appeal is filed a business can open until after a decision is made.
Ware said he was surprised by the process because “nothing in this letter says that if we make a request for an appeal we can open immediately.” Ware said he filed the appeal after receiving a phone call Thursday from Mayor Robert Kennedy telling him about the process.
According to the village code, appeals must be lodged with the village clerk within 20 days of closure. Ware and Toney have a hearing scheduled for later this month.
Toney said that growing up, he and Ware used to hang out on the Nautical Mile and were proud to have become business owners there.
“We feel like young black men owning a business on the Nautical Mile, it is a great achievement,” he said, adding that the ordeal with the village “was playing with our livelihood. “.