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Mahogany's: Turn Out the Lights

By Kathy Y. Wilson · February 26th, 2014 · Kathy Y. Wilson
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As a precursor to the few times my father ever whipped my ass when I was a young girl — all times I needed and deserved it — I recall he said: “This is gonna hurt me more than it will hurt you.” Neither my young head nor my young hide could reconcile that, but beating the bad out of your own flesh and blood must be hard; hard-hearted, even.

It is both.

I am not being hard-hearted when I write that the slow, public and painful financial decline of Liz Rogers and her long-lamented Mahogany’s could have long ago been avoided if she had been given some tutelage, some much-needed oversight or even if, God forbid, someone signing checks to independent business owners at City Hall had simply said “no.”

Now, things around Mahogany’s and Rogers are falling like a game of drunken Jenga.

In the two years since the city gave Rogers nearly $1 million in a package deal of a loan and a grant, the media dug up that Rogers owed $49,000 in back taxes. More recently, she has two tax liens — workers compensation and unpaid sales taxes — totaling more than $22,000. 

On Feb. 20, Rogers was sent a letter from her Banks landlord claiming she owes $53,000 in unpaid back rent and utilities. The letter added that Rogers three times had previously promised in January to repay an estimated $42,000 in back rent with proceeds from catering gigs.

That never happened. Eviction might be eminent.

There was supposed to be a meeting between Rogers and the landlord but she reportedly did not show, a claim she denies.

“I’m just under attack again,” Rogers told the Enquirer.

So, to her resume of abysmal money management, poor promotions and generally bad practices — i.e. any of the myriad complaints riddling the restaurant’s Yelp profile — Rogers can add: “Victim adept at utilizing victim language in the press (I) claim to abhor but use poorly to my benefit and/or demise.”

Here, I should offer up an apology.

But beware. 

It is about to be one of those backhanded jobs that, in retrospect and upon deeper consideration, is not an apology at all.

So I apologize to blacks in Cincinnati who misconstrue thoughtful and honest criticism of another black — in this case, a black woman — as some sort of sign of “self-hatred.” I am not sure or concerned about how that equation was constructed, but it is a certain sign that many black Cincinnatians live under the weighty pall that says we should never care enough about one another to say when one of us is going about something completely the wrong way.

Would you sit idly in the front seat of your black friend’s car as she drove through a Road Closed sign, plummeting both of you to your watery graves?

Would you continue to hand your hard-earned money over to a crackish but beloved relative who showed no signs of recovery but who only called you with repeated excuse-ridden tales of woe when he needs money?

Would you?

Liz Rogers has conducted her business badly and some of us have watched, blinders on, because she is trying to be a black businesswoman. 

I think the evidence is in.

She is not. 

A businesswoman, that is.

Otherwise, her financial hits wouldn’t just keep coming. 

In all this — and I write this with love and empathy — Rogers may have to quietly and without media hype, Internet comments or the circus of black talk radio, reconcile that she is not cut out for this work.

This business, it appears, is not for her.

This does not make me happy.

This does not make my day.

This does not make me rejoice. 

It does, however, hang heavy on my heart when a black woman so badly fumbles a Golden Egg and then cannot be counseled, only cajoled by choruses of wrong-steerers and wrong-doers.

It is not enough to be black and to be striving.

Our collective goal should be small, consistent fetes of excellence and not excellence as compared to white standards or even black standards — whatever either of those is — but personal bests.

Maybe that’s it!

Maybe there’s no personal best here.

If not, I apologize for that, too.

Let me also apologize for not previously pointing out every single white business that has ever given slow, disaffected service, under- or over-cooked food or struggled, through bad business moves, to remain open and afloat. There are a bounty of those in Cincinnati, too and they — based sometimes solely on word of mouth — don’t get my money, either. And they shouldn’t get yours, but if they do, you’re participating in the same type of co-dependence signaling the wrong messages to owners, servers and cooks.

Finally, I apologize to Liz Rogers herself, for I know she will read this because her band of Flying Merry Pranksters will be sure she does. 

Ms. Rogers, I am sorry you seem to have genuinely poured yourself into Mahogany’s and that the city of Cincinnati either gave you no guidance or it offered it and you refused it. I am also sorry that you can point to (white) businesses that have suffered and failed but that haven’t gotten your share of (bad) publicity, and I am further sorry you did not have the business acumen to speak with winning or losing business owners to get advice and insight.

I am also deeply sorry that you possess neither the foresight nor the contrition to apologize to people — albeit anecdotally — who indeed had bad dining experiences in your place, some of them multiple times because they were giving you and your staff chances to make it right. (If you would like their names and numbers, I’ll be more than happy to oblige.)

Finally, I regret you took my valid criticism as a pile on, that you felt attacked and sabotaged by another black woman.

Believe me, it hurt me more than it did you.
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CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

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