Darren Vincent: Recent stabbings at Red@28th not reflective of his business

The owner of Red@28th said his business has not been negatively affected by a weekend fight that left five people with stab wounds.

Darren Vincent (Qcitymetro)

Less than 48 hours after five people were stabbed during a fight at his University City bar and literary lounge, Darren Vincent, owner of Red@28th, called the incident “an unfortunate situation” that doesn’t reflect the character of his business.

Vincent, who owns a second location in NoDa, said he has already taken steps to enhance security and will host a town hall meeting Wednesday at noon to discuss community violence.

Vincent launched the business eight years ago with hundreds of books and a dream of encouraging more people to read, especially African American males. Over they years, he said, the business has added a full bar, pool tables and hookah pipes.

On Monday, as television news crews gathered outside and a small, diverse group of students sat with their books, computers and hookahs, Vincent met with Qcitymetro at the University City location to talk about the Sunday morning incident and its aftermath. Portions of that interview are published below.

Q. What happened here early Sunday morning?

A fight broke out about a quarter after 2. About seven people — they were all together. They were sitting at a couch section. (We) aren’t sure why they started arguing with each other, but just really quick, at the blink of an eye, they got rowdy with each other, and it’s like they split up in groups. All of a sudden they stood up, and it got very aggressive really quick. The staff started asking them to leave, and they got into a little quick argument all of a sudden, and they were at each other. A couple people pulled out a knife, and they started cutting each other.

Q. According to news reports, you were not here at the time.

Yes. That is correct.

Q. Were these some of your regulars — people your staff had seen before?

Not at all. And the odd thing is, about 74 percent of our clientele is regulars. We have great people here. There are people who come here seven days a week. But our staff did not recognize the group of people who got stabbed and were part of the incident.

Q. You’ve announced a community forum for Wednesday at noon here at this location (9539 Pinnacle Drive). What do you hope to accomplish?

It’s one of the things we want to do to help prevent something like this from ever happening again. We’re upping our security right now. We’ve ordered security wands so that nobody brings knives and guns in here anymore. Like I said, it’s very unfortunate that something like this happened. We don’t have a dance floor. We’re like that chill spot. You can be here and relax. It’s like that home away from home.

Q. How has it affected you?

I had a wakeup call. Having a business…it’s your baby. So now I have to step up to another level and be more responsible. I’m hoping that we can find some type of means of being more aggressive in helping the community stop some of this violence that is going on. I want to hear how Red can do more. I want to hear from the community what we can do.

Q. Do you think this incident will hurt your business?

On a good note, shockingly, yesterday our clientele came out. And I tell you, I looked at them in a whole different light. I’m shaking everybody’s hand, and they’re looking at me like, we know Red is not like that and we’re still going to come here. I’m talking about whites, blacks — everybody came out yesterday. So it’s good to know that, so far, the news has not swayed a lot of our regulars.

Q. What do you want people to know about Red?

Just know a little bit about my history. I used to promote literacy, so it’s about the books first. …I wanted this to be that relaxed place. And it’s sad how a few knuckleheads can make it bad for everyone. We host a lot of social events. Every Monday we do a Red Chronicles. Red Chronicles deals with things that affect our community — relationships, finances, violence.  We’ve been doing that for years. We have open mic in both locations. We do a lot of things where we get involved with artists and have discussions about how to make things better when it comes to our community.

Q. Any final thoughts?

It’s an unfortunate situation. We’re going to do what it takes to not allow this to happen again. I hate that a situation like this put such a black cloud over Red. We’re being labeled as a club, and we’re not a club. This is a lounge. This is a literary lounge. People come here to read, study, they listen to music at night, they’re smoking a hookah, they’re very sociable. It’s very unfortunate that we can be in a community for this many years and all of a sudden something like this happens.

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