Community event to support black-owned business in Austin

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Normally, the phrase “beer rally” would be referring to an event involving alcohol — but for the Austin community, it means supporting a black-owned business.

On July 26,  the Austin African American Business Networking Association will host the Black Economic Empowerment Rally (BEER) at Surf’s Up restaurant, 5815 W. Madison St.

AAABNA executive director Malcolm Crawford said the rally is an opportunity to do something collectively in the community and a way to kickstart a person’s business.

“We look at it as we bring the people to you and you do the rest,” Crawford said. “We give people an opportunity to taste your food, to get together. It’s something people can do in the community. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The last rally was held at a black-owned Subway in Austin in May. Crawford said Congressman Danny Davis (D-7th), State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) were among the attendees.

About 150 people showed up at the last gathering, and Crawford said he’s hoping to double that number this time around.

Surf’s Up Owner Eric Roy said the restaurant already has a good amount of traffic coming through the doors, but the event will be a good opportunity to bring in first-time customers.

“It’s always a benefit when you have support from the community,” Roy said.

Surf’s Up’s menu features fried lobster, catfish, wings and even a crab leg dinner.

Roy, a 40-year-old Oak Park resident, said the restaurant is a fast and casual place that offers a lot of different items, like dirty rice and greens, that you don’t get in a typical fast-food restaurant.

Besides offering a unique restaurant that’s needed in Austin, Roy said he and his wife Denise also offer a new perspective for Austin residents.

“We’re a young, African-American couple as well, so we give the children and the community something else to set their eyes on,” Roy said.

Roy grew up on the West Side and is working on turning his restaurant into a successful franchise, with a new location opening in Maywood last week and another coming to the South Side by early August.

Amara Enyia, executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and a 2015 mayoral candidate, said though she wasn’t able to stop by the last rally she and the chamber are always encouraging the community to attend.

“I think these events are very important,” Enyia said. “Supporting local business in the community is critical to their survival. So I always support initiatives that encourage people to buy local.”

Enyia said focused initiatives like Crawford’s are good because it helps create the mindset for residents to shop locally and raises awareness about certain businesses.

“If you don’t know about it, you won’t support it,” Enyia said. “And Austin is a large community. It might be more of a challenge to make sure people are aware of the businesses that are there.”

Enyia said she tries to go to local businesses in the community even for casual occasions or meetings. and has had lunch at Surf’s Up with Crawford once before.

Karl Brinson, president of the Westside branch of the NAACP, said people on the West Side don’t do a good job of spending money in the community.

Brinson said events like the BEER Rally helps the community learn to be supportive of itself.

“Once you spend money in the community, more things can grow in the community,” he said. “If you take money outside the community, you weaken your community economically.”

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