Vandalism, threats, and unsubstantiated complaints: How racism is affecting Black restaurant owners in Baltimore

Peppa Flame Restaurant and Lounge, an upscale Caribbean restaurant in Baltimore, has four stars on Yelp, a clear inspection history, and is listed by Thrillist as one of 15 “essential Black-owned restaurants” that diners should know about in the city. Yet the restaurant has been the subject of more than 200 unsubstantiated calls and complaints to city agencies since opening two years ago, owner Stacie Norwood told The Baltimore Sun this week. The paper reports that Black restaurant owners are experiencing significant racism and harassment from white residents in the majority-Black city, including vandalism, threats, and overenforcement by city officials in response to bogus 311 calls. There’s a well-documented history of 311 systems being wielded against communities of color. An analysis of 311 data in New York City by Buzzfeed News in 2018 showed that quality of life complaints to 311 skyrocketed in neighborhoods that were experiencing gentrification and an influx of white residents. —Jessica Terrell