M.T. Pockets voluntarily shuts down after confrontation


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The owners of the bar MT Pockets voluntarily closed their doors, while under investigation for violating social distancing rules. The bar on Hertel Avenue is being criticized after a bar patron was arrested last week on menacing and harassing charges against protestors and allegedly yelling racial slurs.

“I’m just sorry that there’s a location in my neighborhood that is displaying such hatefulness and ugliness,” said North Buffalo resident Amanda Crotty.

“It’s in our bars, it’s in our restaurants, it’s in our businesses so this is displaying how Western New York truly is,” said Darien Chandler, who’s been attending protests on Hertel Ave.

Although heated words, possibly including racial slurs, were exchanged, no one was hurt and no property was damaged at the scene on Hertel Ave.

Buffalo police say the protesters did not have a permit to be there.

During the interactions, Buffalo Police were seen covering up their names on their uniform, which is against policy. Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown says it’s unacceptable to do that, and although he does not justify that behavior he does say people shouldn’t track officers down.

“Individuals who are looking up people’s names and addresses and homes and where their families live and calling in threats to people, that needs to stop,” Mayor Brown said. “That can not be considered being done in the interest of justice, because it is not just.”

The Erie County Department of Health received a number of complaints about the bar, where many patrons were seen without masks. On Wednesday afternoon, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said more than 100 complaints related to mask-wearing came in on Tuesday alone.

He says the county’s Department of Health has recommended that the bar close until it can enforce the use of masks by employees and patrons. M.T. Pockets voluntarily agreed to this.

On Wednesday morning, the Buffalo Sewer Authority announced that one of its employees has been suspended after getting involved in this incident.

Buffalo Sewer Authority General Manager Oluwole McFoy says an investigation has been opened by the Human Resources Department.

“The actions and words last night of that employee are not reflective of the Buffalo Sewer Authority and they are not reflective of the inclusive and equitable environment that I have strived to cultivate within the Authority,” McFoy wrote.

On behalf of owner Phil Alagna, MT Pockets released a statement in response to Tuesday night’s incident:

“The management of MT Pockets does not condone racism.  The individual with a knife and who spoke vile racist words last week was never in our establishment.  Yesterday, we tried to let people know this.  We tried to say we support people of all races. This was not the right time or place to carry on that conversation with people. We are sorry that things got out of control and some of our customers acted inappropriately yesterday.  We do not tolerate racism in our establishment.  We are saddened that our establishment is being viewed in this manner.  We do not condone racism or violence. We support the recommendations from the Mayor and the Buffalo Police.  We look forward to meeting with the Mayor next week and we will comply with any and all health and safety regulations both inside and outside our establishment.”

Although MT Pockets is not a member of the Hertel Business Association, the organization shared its thoughts on last night’s incident:

“The events that took place on Hertel Avenue within the past several days have deeply saddened our community in ways that are difficult to express. The Hertel Business Association has been in touch with residents, businesses and those who were present for the incidents that occurred, and we are grateful to be a safe place for folks in our neighborhood to confide. Most recently, we have heard from so many community members and business owners about what occurred last night on Hertel Avenue. We feel compelled to speak on the appalling behavior displayed by several individuals involved in the confrontation. With that said, the Hertel Business Association does not condone racism, hate or intolerance of any kind. The Hertel Avenue community not only thrives on the diversity of its business owners but in that of our community residents and visitors. Hertel Avenue represents the most vibrant shopping district in all of Upstate New York and it is unacceptable that people are engaging in any physical assaults or verbal abuse when peaceful protest is taking place on our neighborhood streets. The behavior of a few loud and disrespectful voices is not a reflection of our diverse community and will not be tolerated. There is simply no place for that on Hertel Avenue or anywhere in our beloved City of Buffalo. The business that is affiliated with last night’s incident is not a member of the Hertel Business Association. As an association we serve to support the community and its businesses but have no authority to govern the law of which they operate. However, we have control over the message that stands strong to our mission that this behavior is not condoned in our neighborhood and we welcome kindness, diversity, understanding and to join together for the greater good of all our neighbors.”

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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