Bars Be Beefing? Washington Heights' Locksmith Bar and Apt 78 Butt Heads Over "Defend Uptown" Design

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Twitter: @AndreaGompf

Twitter Beef is a well-documented phenomenon, but it looks like Instagram might be the new place to air grievances. It all started when uptown NYC spot The Locksmith Bar posted the following photo on their instagram, complete with a somewhat inflammatory comment:

Shortly afterwards, the bar uploaded a photo that was clearly a play on uptown artist and founding member of Uptown Collective Tony Peralta‘s “Defend Uptown” design:

The co-opting of a Dominican artist’s imagery + the addition of dreidels + the comment about “Crazy Latinos” seemed to insinuate that Locksmith Bar wanted to defend Ft. Washington against the Latino community of Uptown. Which is a little confusing since the owner of Locksmith Bar is, in fact, Latino and not Jewish. It wasn’t long before commenters began weighing in, and soon venue Apt 78 reposted the photo on its own Instagram with the following comment:

“So this is the fuckery that goes on Uptown? Where individuals try n build a brand that represents us as a community n Biters come & make a mockery of it? Fuck out of here with this bullshit! Locksmith y’all should be ashamed of yourselves for this crap! Defend Uptown was created as a slogan by the @peraltaprjct to help with the progress of our community not to have you question what we are defending or go ahead n make a mockery of it!”

More than 80 comments on Apt 78’s photo ensued, with many feeling affronted by Locksmith Bar’s posts:

@FaustLegacy: Make [sic] no sense – since they are in the community & have establish [sic] a multicultural clientele. I would like to hear their explanation & I hope it isn’t their intent to separate themselves from Washington Heights that would be a very bad business move.

Meanwhile others considered Locksmith’s post to be a just a joke, and accused people of taking it too seriously:

@surveillance_room: Everyone is so sensitive nowadays…nothing is sacred anymore…roll wit it and keep it real…fuck what anybody else do.

Still others seemed disgusted by the whole thing:

@Pixiedee: @Apt78 All of you need to stop this madness already, this has gone too far. It is of poor taste to have local business owners handling their beef on a social site where all their clients see it. The way this is being handled by ALL PARTS is immature and unprofessional. Needless to say you all look like fools! I expected much more from all of you guys.

We reached out to Tony Peralta to get his take on the situation, and this is what he had to say:

It’s not a beef. The Defend Uptown design is mine, something that I came up with 3 years ago after being inspired by seeing Defend BK & Defend Louisiana. Seeing the changes that are occurring uptown with gentrification – maybe not as hard as in the LES or Harlem but it’s happening little by little – I thought it would be cool to highlight and also to inspire people to have more pride in their neighborhood. I always find myself – like many who live in the Heights – defending where I live, against comments about how it’s so far away, etc. So that was the inspiration for the design. As a graphic designer, my initial reaction was “you a fuckin biter.” That’s how I grow up, when you see someone steal or poorly copy your design, they’re a biter. And I assumed that he was trying to be funny or ironic in some way.

But it gets deeper than that.  I question what point of view Oscar [Locksmith’s owner] is coming from. Ft. Washington – from 181st to 190-something – has always been known as being a Jewish neighborhood. And If you look at his commments, he says he’s defending Ft. Washington from “crazy Latinos.” Not for nothing, but if you know about the issues in this community you know it’s not easy for Dominicans or other Latinos to get an apartment in Ft. Washington, it’s always been beautiful and quiet. That’s a sign of “you made it,” [if you live there] it’s like a suburb! From a real estate point of view they changed the name of that area to Hudson Heights! So from that point of view, I don’t understand where he’s coming from, since he’s in fact Latino and not Jewish!! I don’t get his joke.  I wonder if the Jewish community saw that, would they be offended by it?

Locksmith was a cool place for us to go before Apt. 78 and being one of the original people who started Uptown Collective we had our launch party there to letting people know about it. I even had my artwork up there once! So I don’t know how he’s feeling or understand where this comes from. I feel that as a business owner he should be concerned, because when I talk about “Defending Uptown” I mean defending it from Nobu coming in and closing down Locksmith because the rent is too high (like what recently happened with Lenox Lounge, which was priced out of its lease). So I think he didn’t give this joke much thought. Instead of poking fun, maybe you should think about it more deeply and get behind it.