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Cafe Removes 'Peeping Tom' Bathroom Sign After Complaints from Customers

The Brooklyn coffee shop removed the sign that customers said promoted rape culture, but opted to leave up a slavery-era map of the US.

Jelisa Castrodale

A couple of days ago, Brooklyn coffee shop Clever Blend posted its "Baristas Wanted" poster on Facebook, a haphazardly punctuated list of ten requirements ranging from "Must have a good attitude, not an attitude" to "Pants on the ground are not acceptable." The sign was shared with the hashtag #commonsense, which is a 13-character piece of advice that the shop's owners might want to consider. (Clever Blend also misspelled its own name in a hashtag, which somehow seems unsurprising.)

READ MORE: Restaurant's Bathroom Sign Vaguely Threatening to Transgender Customers

Anyway, the shop opened in April and is already up to its non-tattooed face (Requirement No. 2) in controversy, all because of a novelty bathroom sign that the owner inexplicably thought was a good idea. The sign, which depicted a man hanging over the edge of a bathroom stall to watch the woman on the other side as she did her business, was swiftly criticized for its all-around awfulness. One Instagram user posted a picture of it to her account and said that when she suggested to a barista that it was out of touch, he shrugged her off. She responded by writing a negative review on Yelp—and she wasn't the only one.

A number of customers complained, online and in person, but Clever Blend's co-owner, Luca Tesconi, responded by defending the sign in a now-deleted Instagram post, writing:

"I'm having a hard time making sense of this. We bought a funny sign (this is the way it is advertised on Amazon and EBay-why don't you curse at Jeff Bezos now?) and we get a "FU@% YOU" compilation, plus a couple of "bad" Yelp reviews because a "Laptop customer" decides to translate an innocent stupid sign into a personal vendetta probably because she didn't like our laptops rules. Having said that, I'm deeply offended by the ferocity of your posts and the way you use the internet to judge people without even knowing them."

Well, a lot of people were deeply offended by the sign—and by the map of slave-owning states that still hangs behind the counter. (More on that in a sec). Tesconi continued to taunt his critics, posting a tired "Haters Gonna Hate" meme with the comment "You can't please everyone." After perhaps realizing that he needs to please someone if he wants to stay in business beyond the weekend, he has since softened his stance and has removed the sign, replacing it with two sheets of printer paper with the words "Inclusive Restroom" inked on them. He has Instagrammed a picture of the signs twice, both times with the caption "Royal Couple," which could be a sign that maybe he should just sign out of all social media for a few minutes.

Tesconi told PIX11 that he just Googled "funny bathroom signs" when he opened the shop and he bought the now-retired 'Peeping Tom' sign on eBay for $12.99. "I like to make jokes," he said, and although the sign has been covered up, he still doesn't seem to understand why it was problematic in the first place. "They called it 'rape culture.' Here it's just the coffee culture," Tesconi told DNAinfo. "'Rape culture?' If we opened a coffee shop to conduct torture, then shoot me now."

Unfortunately, that's only one of the issues that customers have had with Clever Blend. Just after the shop opened—and before the bathroom sign misstep—customers had complained about the shop's ginormous map of slave-owning states. "[It has] a giant map centered behind the whole of the counter: "Secession 1860-1861"," one Yelp user wrote. "No other maps in the store, no historical anything, no context, just basically a huge map, framed and centered, showing us which states withdrew from the US in order to preserve slavery as a way of life."

Tesconi is defending that now, too. "This map shows how the US geography briefly changed as some Southern states with cotton-based economies joined the Confederate States of America in a stupid attempt to maintain their 'legal' rights to Slavery and profit from it," the shop says, in a framed explanation of why it's still hanging there. (He sent a photo of the sign (above) to MUNCHIES.) "This map is displayed in an attempt to remember to all of us that at any time Civil Rights are at risk of being taking [sic] away from us."