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Mahogany's: In the Dark

By Kathy Y. Wilson · February 12th, 2014 · Kathy Y. Wilson

Word of mouth kept me away.

News of the recent financial woes dogging Mahogany’s co-owner Liz Rogers are not surprising, shocking or even new. They date back to 2012 when City Council was color struck and split by the very idea of a black-owned business along the otherwise all-white stretch of The Banks development. 

Some wanted to give Rogers a $2 million package for a bigger space; others questioned Rogers’ spotty financial past, one which she said included identity theft. 

They settled on a $684,000 grant and a $300,000 loan. Rogers is now behind two and a half months, or $6,000, on that loan and in arrears by $12,424 and by $9,671 in worker’s compensation payments and unpaid sales tax, respectively.

When a business owner cannot pay those fundamental operating costs it is usually a telltale sign of larger problems, and in this case Mahogany’s larger problems are ones afflicting many black-owned businesses not only in Cincinnati but across America: service and loyalty.

Being a black business owner may be the only realm wherein blacks pander in entitlement; as in, black business owners feel entitled to the financial support and patronage of not just customers but specifically of black customers. 

If I am black and if you are black you should come.

This, despite the fact that black business is delivering shoddy service, substandard product and is generally unprofessional — all traits no reasonable patron would ever tolerate from any other business. 

In fact, I have seen black folks act out like toddlers in white restaurants and businesses, claiming everything from racism to slow service, but those same folks return time and again to places like Mahogany’s whose management, owners and staff have demonstrated they are either unprepared for the rigors of big-time ownership or they’re used to barely getting by on some half-assed business principles trickling down to service and food preparation; and somehow this is all OK for some black folks when what they’re ultimately doing is rewarding bad behavior.

During its brief, tempestuous and black-owned life span, news of bad service and unprofessional business practices at Mahogany’s was epic.

And these were not whispers. 

These were oft-repeated bad service sagas ripe for the annals of the history of restaurants.

Friends early on told me about the time they went to Mahogany’s for dinner and nothing they asked for on the menu was available. 

When they finally decided on something — after finally just asking the server, “What do you have?” — the order arrived wrong and ill prepared. 

That means it was naaasty, in black parlance.

They were there so long trying to get their order right, they told me, they ordered a dessert to go, allegedly a Mahogany’s specialty, and when they got it home it, too, was wrong and not what they’d ordered.

By now undeterred and downright bemused by the comedic proportions of a dinner/desert order, they called Mahogany’s to politely complain and to let them know how bad their dining experience was, and their complaints weren’t met with any solutions equal to the “Who’s On First?” dining gaff they’d endured.

Then there was the time when a family rented out the place to hold a watch party so friends and family could watch and celebrate their daughter, who was appearing on a reality TV show.

Mahogany’s staff was not only late arriving — the family sat waiting in their cars while workers pulled up — but half the program was missed because staff did not have the television properly cued up ahead of time.

As usual, most of this is our own black fault.

I’ve never understood why black folks, who still earn less on the dollar than whites (and all women still earn less than men), could throw good money after bad chasing and “supporting” bad black businesses all in the name of having someone in the game. 

This is partly why blacks have a universal reputation among white businesses for not tipping.

We equate our bad (black) experiences with all other (white) experiences and, therefore, everyone must pay by not getting paid in tips.

The other black fault at play here is desperation.

It’s true that in 2014 in the middle of the second term of Barack Obama blacks are still waiting for economic crumbs and wholly dependent on set-aside programs that would put “one” of us on the playing field.

To make things appear okey-dokey, entities like Cincinnati City Council wrongly anoint the wrong Black One for the sake of appearing fair and inclusive and, invariably, that Black One makes colossal mistakes thereby making it twice as hard for Black Ones who would’ve been better ones but who may never get the city grants and loans because they don’t know how to play The Race Card, that ’ol song an’ dance done to the tune of racial guilt.

And Cincinnati has a history rife with Bad Black Choices: In 2002, fresh off the April, 2001, riots after Stephen Roach shot and killed Timothy Thomas, the city gave Lashawn Pettus-Brown $184,000 based on fraudulent bank documents to renovate the crumbling, 90-year-old Empire Theater in Over-the-Rhine. In short, Brown fled the country with the money he spent promoting concerts and wining and dining women. The theater was demolished. Brown was recently arrested in a Los Angeles airport and brought back here to face those old charges, and he’s now in the Justice Center.

And the city is still embarrassed.

But it would never have to live through this kind of embarrassingly guilt-ridden racial relationship again if the city did its due diligence, identified black and minority business owners whose products and services we need but who could benefit from a slow walk through an incubator program with rigorous entrepreneurial training instead of merely throwing them head first into surefire failure for the sake of padding “diversity” numbers in order to get federal tax breaks.

So when a black business fails, everyone benefits but blacks, who remain in the dark.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com



02.13.2014 at 12:27 Reply

Ms. Wilson,

I would encourage you to read the entire article in the enquirer titled " Where's the rest of the Banks", finally someone who claims to be a reporter, did an adquate job of reporting. You, Ms. Wilson- did not do your homework. Your facts about Mrs. Rogers are not correct or complete, and for that I am sadden by you, as a black woman who writes in this newspaper, I would hope as you report on other black people, you would do some fact finding, before you wrote this column.  If you would like to cover other Black owned business, I would hope you cover us in the same light as you would non blacks business owners

he mere fact that you have to say "ONE", indicates something is wrong in this city where the population of Blacks is at 50%. The mere fact that you had to go back to Mr. Brown, from 10 years ago, indicates something is wrong. There are others of which whom have recieved my tax dollars to open, and have the option to fail, and in some cases they have, we don't see those reports. Ms. Wilson, all I asking is that you be fair in your writtings.  

Thank You,

Iris Roley


02.14.2014 at 01:30

While agree with a few of the points of the author, I also feel MANY are over exaggerated.  At the VERY least, I feel the writer should have visited the restaurant herself for a first hand experience vs relying on hearsay, etc.


02.14.2014 at 12:06 Reply

Reading this makes me sad for you. It serves as a constant reminder of the breakdown that took place in our lives as black people so long ago when we were seperated, sold off and our whole dynamic of oneness was destroyed. You sound ridiculous! While I have never visited this establishment, one thing that I know is true is that your words are detremental and harmful to all African Americans as a whole. You sound like a real house slave (uknowwhatiwanttosay) right now. Who raised you with so much self hatred and biggetry in your heart? Dear God! We have come so far but have so far to go! Freedom of speech is alive and well, but your analysis of the black race as a whole is a true reflection of the stereotypes that we face everyday. When you talk about us you talk about you...hasn't anyone ever taught you that? Even if all that you say about Mahogany's is true, why are you stereotyping and using your talents and god given outlet to do so much harm. Shame on you for thinking and stating that we are not worth an investment. Everyone is not looking for a handout, on welfare and playing the race card. However, we are all riding on the coat tails of our ancestors, including you! You ought be ashamed if your not....where is your mother???? Father???? Where is your guidance?


02.14.2014 at 02:41 Reply

....im highly offended by the information in this article....i almost view it as slander....its very biased and is full of negativity towards this business....i have ate there maaaany times and habe never once heard of the type of service you speak of nor have i ever heard any other guest say such either...are you a food critic?...when was the last time you ate there?..whom did you speak with?..and how dare you compare the owners to mr brown and his criminal actions from years ago...and for the record,if u feel this way,why didnt you write an article that HELPED the business? or is that too much like right? @fame826 (ig & fb)


02.14.2014 at 07:08 Reply

In this colum Kathy Y Williams simply stated enough facts to prove her point. If I personally planned and looked forward to a special night with family and friends, or by myself, at that restraunt, and the service was anything but desirable, I would have pitched a fit. Yes, I am a black female in my early 50's, and honestly, I would never pick a black establlishment to spend some serious money, because I would expect shoddy service. There is only one black establishment that I still appreciate being in Cincinnati, and that one is J&W Barbeque, the service is always professional, and they have never not once, every not had what I ordered from the menue. Now this is what's happening, to the folks at Mahogony's, that is simply embarassing, period.



02.14.2014 at 07:33 Reply

This article should have not even been written. It disgust me when I see people pull up other people past as if they are free of any faults. Kathy Wilson you should be ashamed of yourself that you had to deface someone else in order to complete your job requirements for city beat.


02.14.2014 at 12:44

Some friends and I went to Mahagony's for dinner last summer.  The air conditions was low, making it very uncomfortable.  I saw a friend of mine that was leaving and she whispered to me that her grandmother's order was messed up and when Mrs. Wilson was told this info, she was very rude to her family.  My guests decided to stay anyway.  Well we decided to stay until I saw a bug crawling up my menu!  We left immediately.