"Aerin why don't you ever write about bad experiences you have in your articles?" the boyfriend asked as we exited Suffolk Punch on Saturday evening. I'd already made up my mind that — after vowing to never become that person who only writes a review after a bad experience — I was going to write "healthy" reviews on Yelp and Google. I laughed at my boyfriend because I'd been asked that many times before. And the truth is complicated. But before I go into that, let me rewind.
This year, my birthday falls on a Wednesday. I have negative PTO time so going all out Wednesday night is most likely not going to happen. In anticipation of this unfortunate reality, I decided to spend this past weekend doing whatever it was that I wanted to do. Not that that's not a regular occurrence with me and the boyfriend, but on this occasion I can whine as much as I want (sung in Lesley Gore's voice) – or at least that's what I told myself.
When we finally woke up on Saturday, we decided to go to NoDa Company Store. Even though the flea market we wanted to go to was over, The Dumpling Lady was still serving up tasty dumplings for us to eat. We'd been talking about giving this food truck a try for quite some time so it didn't take too much to convince him it was worth the drive despite having a short window of time to also attend the Girl Tribe Pop Up Event in South End. And let me tell you: It. Was. Worth. It.
Fast forward. After shopping the pop-up boutiques in South End, we were trying to decide what we wanted to do next. We try to avoid the day-drinking train early on so we wanted to keep it low key. But as you know, it's hard to imagine how you're going to stay busy during the day on weekends — unless you're renting a bike or getting physical — without drinking. I ran through a short list of places I'd want to go in South End that may lead to a cocktail but not a day-drinking shitshow. Suffolk Punch won. I knew it wasn't necessarily our scene but thought the pace would be slow enough for us to still enjoy. I was wrong.
I'd visited the venue twice before and while it wasn't my favorite place of all time, I didn't mind grabbing a couple beers with friends in the past. The third time, however, wasn't the charm. After showing our IDs at the door and donning wristbands, we walked to the inside bar. We waited for around 15 minutes to order while other patrons and couples rotated in and out. I started to sweat. Customer service is one of the first things I always pay attention to at a nightlife venue. When we were finally greeted by a bartender, there was no warm greeting or an acknowledgement of our wait time, but the equivalent of, "Yes?" and a nod.
What made it worse? The $12 cocktails we ordered were beyond lackluster. I ordered the blonde Bloody Mary and the boo ordered a margarita. You'd think those were safe bets. But when I say I left the full Bloody Mary resting on a table outside, I mean it. The marg we shared but it was clear no love went into the making of that drink. I felt so embarrassed of making the suggestion I almost went back in to have another drink made. But the boyfriend pointed out that it would probably take 155 more minutes to even speak with someone so I relented.
*Don't be an angry black woman* I'd thought to myself when my emotions started to run high. And to my earlier point, that's where my issue with writing negative reviews lied. On the one hand, any publicity is good publicity. On the other, I was raised by parents who were constantly saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothin' at all."
As we walked out and he casually asked the question, I knew that my answer was embedded in that moment of "not wanting to be perceived as an angry black woman." I explained to him how I felt that sometimes it feels counterproductive to write a negative review. Half the battle is believing that half of my audience will expect me to act a certain way, think a certain way or enjoy a certain space. So, why reinforce those expectations? To which, he wholeheartedly disagreed. In fact, he felt remaining silent is almost doing the nightlife scene a disservice. Feedback is different than ignorance.
How do you deal with or approach negative experiences at bars, restaurants or venues in the Queen City? Share it with me at email@example.com.