A new East Williamsburg cafe has temporarily shuttered following an online campaign that accused owner Guy Sands of being a White Supremacist and member of the Proud Boys—charges that Sands vehemently denies. "I am a proud Brooklyn ordinary guy," he told Gothamist. "I'm not a goddamn Nazi."
The Grand Street restaurant, named Sands, reportedly received threatening messages after the owner was named in a "NYC white supremacist alert" that circulated on Twitter and Facebook. In addition to accusing Sands of being affiliated with the Proud Boys, the alert claims that he once operated an alt-right Twitter account, and references a Vanity Fair article that identifies him as an attendee of a party thrown by Milo Yiannopoulos.
WHATS UP NYC PLEASE DONT SUPPORT THIS SHMUCK pic.twitter.com/iO2YIzsWfz
— Colin Hagendorf (@ColinHagendorf) September 25, 2018
As the post spread—one tweet has been shared over 1000 times—Sands' Yelp page was bombarded by comments, telling him to "get the fuck out of Brooklyn" and declaring that "anyone who gives this place money doesn't belong in one of the most diverse and rich neighborhoods." Yelp has temporarily disabled commenting, citing "content related to media reports."
Gothamist spoke with Sands on Tuesday, hours after the rumor started attracting attention online. He said that he had occasionally spent time with the Proud Boys—a group of self-identified "western chauvinists" led by right-wing provocateur Gavin McInnes—but did not consider himself a member. In 2016, he accompanied the group on what he says was an "investigatory" trip to the Republican National Convention, where he attended Milo's party and told Vanity Fair he was a "contrarian."
Sands offered a similar description of his politics to Gothamist, noting that he is "very empathetic person" and "not afraid of ideas." He denied ever operating an alt-right Twitter account, and claimed to be a lifelong Democrat.
"I have no allegiance to any of those people," he said. "I've been a philosopher—I went to school for philosophy—and I'm really interested in ideas. I like to hear different opinions. I was very naive to think that I could hear other opinions that would not bring guilt by association."
News that the cafe is temporarily closing was first reported by Eater (which also points out that Sands is a registered Republican). He told the outlet that the decision was made on Wednesday out of fear for the safety of his business and family. Our own attempts to reach Sands again today were unsuccessful, and it's unclear if there are any plans to reopen the cafe soon.
We'll update as we learn more.