Hamptons brewery targeted with boycott over Black Lives Matter support

By Isabel Vincent

A Hamptons craft brewery’s declaration of support for Black Lives Matter unwittingly tapped into a groundswell of community outrage.

Weeks after principals of the Montauk Brewing Company posted their backing for the group in pastel chalk on a board outside their Montauk tasting room and pledged to donate part of their profits to civil rights groups, the beer company became the target of a sometimes vicious online boycott.

Robert Frank, a police officer in Suffolk County, and his real estate agent wife Valeria Frank formed the Facebook group “Defund Montauk Brewing Company” on Aug. 12. The group currently boasts nearly 30,000 Facebook followers.

Its purpose is “to bring awareness to the recent events that Montauk Brewing Company has decided to take … by supporting an extremist organization,” according to its Facebook page.

Entrance to the private “Defund” group requires social media users to answer yes or no to the questions “Do you support extremist radical organizations?” and “Do you believe ALL LIVES MATTER?”

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Michael O’Keefe, a novelist and retired NYPD homicide detective, said that most of the members are retired or active police officers on Long Island who feel sidelined by the Black Lives Matter movement. “We’ve been so beaten down,” he told The Post. “If you want to sell beer on the backs of our dead bodies, we’re not going to participate.”

O’Keefe said the Franks were stunned when the membership catapulted into the thousands. “We now want to go in a new direction, and use our voices to support businesses that support the police,” O’Keefe said.

In addition to posts blasting the craft brewer as a “Marxist hate group” and a video of a can of Montauk Pumpkin Ale being poured down a sink, many took their grievances to Yelp. There were so many negative posts that Yelp added a warning that posts could be “related to media reports.’

The BLM-support message was written on a chalk board June 2, a week after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis cop. It read, “The founders and team at Montauk Brewing Company support the movement with all our hearts. Black lives matter.” It was written by co-owner Vaughan Cutillo.

As the boycott grew, the company’s owners issued a lengthy letter on their Instagram page on Aug. 15 reaffirming their support to Black Lives Matter, and noting that they had made contributions to nonprofits, including the NAACP. They also said they “consistently donate to police precincts, fire fighters the Navy Seal Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project.” They posted another chalkboard message saying “we support good people doing good things.”

That did little to assuage critics. “Please stay out of politics. You’re a beer company,” posted one social-media user.

The craft brewer was founded in 2012 by three friends who attended East Hampton High School and has grown to be the second largest brewery on Long Island.

In a statement to The Post, a spokesman said, “Montauk Brewing Company values and respects everyone. … we’ll always support the people of our Long Island home, and their right to peacefully protest but never condone violence of any kind against those who keep us safe and secure.”

They did not comment on whether the boycott has hurt business.

https://nypost.com/2020/08/29/hamptons-brewery-facing-boycott-for-black-lives-matter-support/

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