Suede: Black Owned & Black Supported Restaurant Celebrates Outdoor Re-Opening

Suede Outdoor Dining
Suede’s Grand Re-opening and Teacher’s Celebration. Photo by Tsubasa Berg

Small minority-owned businesses have taken a tremendous hit during the city’s COVID-19 shutdown and subsequent phase crawl to reopening. However, some community leaders are taking the crisis bull by the horns and spotlighting as many local restaurant owners as possible to rejuvenate the neighborhood’s economy.

Suede Modern Caribbean Cuisine, 5610 Clarendon Road, celebrated its Grand ‘RE-OPENING’ this Thursday, July 16, with the support of Community Board 17’s Commerce Committee Chairperson Hassan Bakiriddin, Brooklyn Level Up, Councilmembers Farah Louis (D-East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, Midwood) and Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights), and other elected officials. 

(Center left) Councilmember Farah N. Louis and (Center right) Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel. Photo by Tsubasa Berg

“We don’t have a lot of jewels like Suede in Brooklyn, so we have to appreciate what we have, and we have to be able to invest in what we have, and that’s minority, women, Black-owned businesses,” said Louis. 

The restaurant served free sample meals and drinks, individually packaged and bagged, to customers in their lavish outdoor seating areas that featured a bar, fountain, tented tables, and a BBQ and jerk station. 

A steel drummer entertained, music played, and delicious Caribbean meals with a modern twist flew out of the kitchen at breakneck speed to feed hungry guests.

Celia Pliadlyn is the St. Lucian matriarch and co-restaurant owner of Suede along with her two sons for the past six years. “The idea was to do something nice for the Black community, so that our people have a nice place to go to without having to go across the Bridge,” said Pliadlyn. She said since the beginning the business has been active in the community, donating food for luncheons and supporting essential workers for years, in addition to the recently established Black Lives Matter scholarship and COVID-19 contributions. 

The reopening event coincided with Suede’s 3rd Annual Teacher’s BBQ, an appreciation party for hardworking teachers in Brooklyn. Ampry-Samuel said the reopening was a great way to say thank you to the teachers for all they were able to deal with during the pandemic and the protests so far.

“Every single community is different, and so we were struggling prior to a pandemic, and we always fought for more resources and more funding for our teachers, more counselors, more social workers, more mental health programming–and so clearly this has exacerbated everything, so we have to take that into consideration and have an equity lens as we’re fighting for our children,” said Ampry-Samuel about the state of education in the district. 

The manager, pictured here, staff and security at Suede’s restaurant enforced safety guidelines. Photo by Tsubasa Berg

Bakiriddin said everyone realized the monumental impact COVID would likely follow through the end of the year, and the community board was thinking about how to proactively help businesses in the district that come through their department. 

“It’s not easy, that’s why we’re pushing very heavily to make sure our elected officials to take a look at this area, East Flatbush, and see that they’re falling on hard times and we need some more help,” said Bakiriddin about the neighborhood’s restaurants, “They are hurting bad, they really are and it’s a shame. A lot of them will not open back up.”    

Bakiriddin said he was surprised at the negative response from BKLYNER that criticized the reopening due to gathering restrictions of up to 25 handed down by Governor Andrew Cuomo back in June.  

The beautifully crafted wooden and brick interior seating went unused. Ample security guards enforced social distancing rules and RSVPs to maintain the flow of traffic, and gruffly side-eyed anyone without a mask. Nonetheless, residents and electeds seem to enjoy the tropical atmosphere in the outside enclosures and partied on boozy rum punch to their heart’s content. 

Brooklyn Level Up, founded by Allyson Martinez and Rachel Goodfriend, were very proud of the collaboration with the community board to save their local businesses. “My family has lived in this community and in that house for over 50 years. Even before they came. When they opened up, because we’re neighbors, I liked that they were always community-centered and organized,” said Martinez about the Suede restaurant’s role in the neighborhood.