A new coffee shop in Park Slope is under fire for a sign on the bathroom door that depicts a man peering into the woman’s bathroom — with locals saying that it promotes sexual harassment.
Clever Blend opened at 97 5th Avenue back in April, but this week, people have been posting one-star reviews to Yelp and blasting the coffee shop on Instagram for the sign on the bathroom door.
One one-star review said the customer told the barista that the sign was “totally out of touch,” but was dismissed. Soon after, four more negative reviews popped up saying that the sign is offensive, makes light of sexual harassment, and promotes rape culture.
Yesterday, Clever Blend posted a note to Instagram saying “haters gonna hate” and “you can’t please everyone” — a response that launched dozens more responses on Instagram calling the owners misogynistic or tone deaf. The owners then wrote another comment:
I'm having a hard time making sense of this. We bought a funny sign (this is the way it is advertised on Amazon and EBay-why don't you curse at Jeff Bezos now?) and we get a "FU@% YOU" compilation, plus a couple of "bad" Yelp reviews because a "Laptop customer" decides to translate an innocent stupid sign into a personal vendetta probably because she didn't like our laptops rules. Having said that, I'm deeply offended by the ferocity of your posts and the way you use the internet to judge people without even knowing them. I'll agree to the following: get in touch with Amazon, EBay Pinterest etc... explain your point of view and convince them to have this silly sign removed from their websites and then we will remove it immediately. Until then the sign stays for one simple reason: we didn't put it up to offend anyone :) [sic]
The statement ignited even more anger and demands that the coffee shop take the sign down. “Glad I've never accidentally given you business before,” one comment said. “Let's promote violating women's privacy, and then laugh about it. This is seriously tone deaf and offensive.”
Others also took offense to a map displayed in the cafe that showed the secession of southern states during the Civil War. “This is a hateful reminder of the legacy of racism and slavery that this country was founded on,” said local resident Alex Hidalgo, noting that such displays “do not belong in our community.”
Co-owner Luca Tesconi told Eater over Facebook messenger that he and business partner Andrea Alimonta “didn’t open a coffee shop with the intention of offending anyone.” They have not yet taken down the sign but they did post an additional sign asking customers — “lots of women,” he noted — if they were offended, he said.
He also noted that the map is a historical one “put up to remember all us during this turbulent times that we shouldn't take our freedom for granted.”
Tesconi said that the backlash was “nonsense” from “a small internet group,” not their actual customers. The survey that he posted to the bathroom found that most people did not think it promoted violence against women, he added.
Still, he thinks he will likely take it down eventually.
“This kind of backlash is sincerely unexpected since our intentions is to embrace the community, not the opposite,” he said. “But having said that, I can now understand that even if you try your best you can't nail it every time.”
The peeping Tom bathroom sign has been used in restaurants and coffee shops elsewhere, too. A coffee shop in DC displayed it years ago, and just last month a DC restaurant called Proof was forced to take down their version of the sign after post-Trump election complaints. It had been up for nearly ten years.
The same sign has also been used by the political far right to criticize the movement for transgender people to be able to use the bathroom they want.