On Monday, EVG contributor Derek Berg noted the arrival of a chalk message on the sidewalk outside Ballaro on Second Avenue between East Fourth Street and East Fifth Street.
The message was pointed, yet strangely polite: "We do not play Taylor Swift here you cunts. Grazie."
At the time of our post, we didn't know what this was all about.
But commenters filled in the blanks:
I was actually there [Sunday] night and a big group of drunk people were abusing the bartenders and yelling at them to play Taylor swift.. They actually did play 2 Taylor songs to try and please them. Then they started booing because she didn't play the right one.
And now, Ballaro checks in:
As one of the owners of Ballaro, I wanted to shed some light on the events that took place at my establishment this last Sunday night. In my eyes, it was extremely ridiculous. It’s easy to talk shit and to make snap judgements without ever knowing what truly took place, which is why I wanted to write this letter.
To start, I do not know who wrote that sentence on the floor outside of our place, but it was not me or anyone who works at Ballaro. That’s not who I am - I grew up in a family that taught me how to respect people the same... their skin color, race, religion, sexual orientation and age is never taken into consideration when I’m serving customers. I treat everyone with the upmost respect.
I know that I was offended, degraded and treated like shit by a group of 15 drunk people without any valid reason. They were screaming “BOO, YOU SUCK!” at me and my wait staff because Taylor Swift wasn’t playing on our sound system. I then played two Taylor Swift songs for them to placate them and they were dancing and singing all together so I assumed I had made my customers happy.
However, after the two songs ended and the playlist moved on to other artists, they started complaining even more and it escalated. They started screaming that the songs I played weren’t the right one and I was told that, “this place is shit, the music and the people here suck.” I was then told to, “go back to your country with that fucking immigrant face.”
This was the point that I lost control and I finally broke under the consistent barrage of snarky comments to myself and my staff. We had done nothing but serve them and try to make their time as enjoyable as possible and we were all being treated poorly. I yelled at them to leave and asked them all to go.
One of the women in the group took out her phone and said that she was going to make a viral video so no one would come to Ballaro anymore. Now this, more than anything, upsets me because Ballaro is a gathering place for neighbors, friends, lovers and strangers alike. We have a community that gathers in Ballaro and we all love and support each other and welcome anyone in our restaurant and bar. To possibly lose all that because of someone’s tainted point of view on social media, would be the worst thing.
My mission is to make everyone who enters through the front door feel like they are at home, because sometimes New York hardens even the best of us and we forget the true values in life: community and peace.
I’m a dreamer, and as a dreamer I would love to change the world, starting even in the smallest ways. So please, let’s make LOVE VIRAL and not hate! If anyone is bothered at the way I run my wine bar, I’d love to have a calm conversation with them face-to-face. If you truly dislike Ballaro, than luckily there are a million other places in New York that you can go to. I can’t allow groups of belligerent drunk people to insult my bar, myself or my staff. This place is my heart and soul, and I need to protect that.
I’ve learned that everybody deserves a second chance and I have learned the importance of always responding in love, no matter what insults or hurt is thrown at me.
East Village, I hope you will be safe and sound, Taylor Swift or no Taylor Swift.
PS - You know where to find me if you feel the need to come apologize and pay your $500 check, as you left without paying.
Photos by Derek Berg