Plywood and paint a hoped for conversation starter

The owner of Brew Bar hopes the signs on his storefront prompt thought and discussion.

In the days after several La Mesa businesses were burned, damaged and looted after police and protestors clashed during an anti police brutality protest May 30, one Chula Vista shopowner wanted to foster communication.

According to Brew Bar owner Alex McDaniel, businesses along Third Avenue in Chula Vista were notified that a similar situation — a peaceful protest ultimately developing into violence — could potentially occur in the downtown business district.

McDaniel said he spoke with other business owners about how to simultaneously protect businesses while also reaching out to people with a call for open conversation and decided a can of black paint was his tool of choice.

McDaniel took the opportunity to paint #BlackLivesMatter and Small Business 4 Racial Justice in black paint on the makeshift window coverings. He says he decided by writing something, he’d be acknowledging the situation but also triggering a conversation.

“I noticed a lot of boards that went up with no message, like people aren’t wanted. I think just boarding up gives a warzone kind of feel. In my mind, it sends an aggressive tone. I figured I’d use my business as a platform to have a conversation,” McDaniel said.

The cafe owner questions the concept of being for or against any one political movement.
He recalls the day he opened the cafe and hung a sign in the front window proclaiming: We filter coffee, not people.

“I came up out of the early ’90s coffee shop culture, with people sitting and sharing ideas. We encourage crosstalk, communication, taboo subjects— that was my goal, to create a space in Chula Vista where people feel comfortable whether they’re gay, straight, black, white, whatever,” McDaniel said.

Since then, the cafe owner has begun using the cafe’s social media accounts to put forth information on the Black Lives Matter movement and related information. He says it is a seed toward conversation and change.

“We invite everyone to have a discussion. You know, I thought it was interesting that the Eazy Toys, a business down the street wrote up the same sign. They came and borrowed our paint and then we had a whole conversation about what to post outside,” McDaniel said.