Veteran LA restaurateur Brad Johnson argues that in order to save a small business, we also need to demand Black leadership from big business. He said the following.
Whenever I used to tell someone that I was in the restaurant business, they would always respond by saying, “It’s a tough business.” True, I wouldn’t call the job easy, but I got plenty of joy from the experience — the camaraderie with staff, the simple daily routines, the interactions with regular clients. I always worked for the sounds and rhythms of a bustling dining room in the 40 + years I spent as a restaurateur in Los Angeles and New York, running establishments like Nashville, the Roxbury, Atlanta, and Post & Beam. If you have ever been to a restaurant in Black on a Friday night, you know just what I expect. If you haven’t, well, you can meet in public places again as soon as it is free.
Small Business is hard
I’ve been a restorer for nearly my entire career. When I sold Post & Beam last summer in South Los Angeles, it was the first break I had taken since the late 1970s from hospitality activities. And though, indeed, at times the market was difficult. It was much more so to see the activities of the last few months from the sidelines.
When the pandemic first landed. I was working alongside Venus Williams’ design firm with the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. To restore the Historic Sunset Lounge, a former jazz club and stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit. From a point. However, I often talked to John Cleveland, the young African-American cook, first-time business owner and parent at Post & Beam who gamely took over the helm. This became difficult to overlook how high the odds were against his success. When companies were being shuttered and the food market looked to be in freefall.
A recent study revealed that 40 percent of U.S.-owned Black businesses have shuttered since the pandemic started. John maneuvered though — he wasn’t about to quit his restaurant. Thanks to District 8 Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Who contracted John to deliver meals to seniors three times a week, he has kept the lights on largely. In addition, Local customers who ordered takeovers picked the sales up. Yet he is far from getting out of the jungle. When you’re in LA, Post & Beam, Chef John, and the team will appreciate your patronage, so make a point of buying food from there or from another Black-owned company.