Angry Neighbors

small neighborhood

A funny thing happens when you bring a little food business to a small community: while most of the population celebrates their new food options, others–a small, warlike bunch–see the new eatery as a threat to their entire way of life.

While most may celebrate the proximity to a new pizza joint, being a stone’s throw from a great gourmet food shop, or have short walk to a charming café, a fringe group will always emerge within the community. Quick to anger and fast to threaten, these are the people within a locale who dedicate hours a day to gather proof that the new business will destroy their peaceful way of life.

First World Problems/Old World Problems

Throughout history there have always been Angry Neighbors. Early agrarian humans beat their hairy chests in anger when Cro-Magnon man built their first cave. British royalty set cannons afire when caravans (the Medieval equivalent of a food truck) got too close to their castle. Certain villagers in 1600‘s Salem Massachusetts were hung or imprisoned when they let their animals graze too close to their neighbors’ property.

I’ve opened more than a dozen restaurants during my career in the food industry, so it shouldn’t come as such a surprise by the back lash. Every new shop earns its own brand of negative feedback. One shop gets a city planner who doesn’t like the style of coffee being served. Another, the irate woman with a clip board filled with signatures that demands the end of the scent of pizza baking. Perhaps it’s the irate man who spits with rage over the infringement of so-called property rights whenever a stranger parks a car on “their” street.

Whenever I see an Angry Neighbor snap a picture of a my employees (a quiet father of four, a bright-eyed student looking to pay her bills so she can go to school) park their car legally on a quiet street for proof of something detrimental, or listen to a Concerned Citizen’s voice-mail threatening to sue me for smell of bread baking, I can’t hold back the astonishment.

I suppose it’s the nature of the furious rants that shock me.

How bad can handmade food be for a neighborhood?

Is street parking more important than sustenance?

Where is the compassion for our fellows?

I understand that change is hard for some people. But what is lost if we open our neighborhoods up to people who want to serve the community? Surely there are better causes than attacking a small business that’s dedicated to making something beautiful and nourishing for a neighborhood.

We live in a broken and hurting world. Why make the world a more painful place over street parking? Is fighting for an empty street really a worthy battle?


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

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