A Flatbush Avenue dance studio is working to bounce back after a viral video last month took a bite out of their business.
On March 12, cell phone cameras captured multiple students from nearby Erasmus Hall High School beating up 15-year-old girl who appeared to lose consciousness after falling to the floor and having her head stomped on. Six teenage girls have since been arrested for their alleged part in the beatdown, which police believe was gang motivated.
“Because it’s so close, it hurt (our business),” said Jacqueline Finch, who coordinates Kizomba classes -- a sensual dance from Africa -- at the Balmir Latin Dance Studio. By Finch’s count, the studio is just 30 steps away from the now-infamous Flatbush Avenue McDonald’s.
Finch, born and raised in Brooklyn, said classes briefly grinded to a halt after the video went viral, and she has only sold a handful of tickets for an upcoming Kizomba event that she thought would bring in hundreds.
“You get phone calls like, ‘You know Jackie, I don’t want to go over there. There’s a lot going on the neighborhood,” Finch said. “I had a DJ who said he’s not going to DJ over here because he doesn’t want his equipment stolen. That really hurt me. This is my neighborhood.”
And while studio owner Eric Balmir said after school classes, such as karate, have climbed back to the pre-brawl numbers of about 20, he’s concerned that local businesses weren’t supported, and nothing has been done to prevent a similar situation from happening.
“We deal with children, for the most part, we’re a family business,” said Balmir, who opened his studio four years ago. “It’s just a negative vibe, we consoled parents and had to convince them that it was safe and we’re still here. It’s sad we have to do that, because the neighborhood is getting much better.”
On a recent Sunday, Finch walked the neighborhood to ask other small business owners if the brawl had hurt them as well.
“There have been things like that before,” said Ricky Rivera, who has owned Forever Ink tattoo shop for the last 10 years. “Compared to what this neighborhood was, it’s like heaven now, it’s sad to say, but it’s not so bad anymore.”
And for Willard Philip, a clothing store employee near the McDonald’s, said increased police presence and media attention following the attack will probably help local businesses.
“In any part of the world, people will fight,” Philip said. “But something like this, it just went too far.”