Amarachi, a beloved Brooklyn restaurant and bar that has hosted events for visiting Nigerian kings and New York City power players like Eric Adams, is asking the Brooklyn community for help as it fights to keep its doors open after 18 years in business.

Two weeks ago, Joseph “Bub” Adewumi started a fundraiser to help save Amarachi, the business he and his wife Maxine started in 2004 with a vision for uniting the global Black diaspora.

Over nearly two decades, Amarachi has become a beloved institution both in the Black community and for those who celebrate and support Black culture.

The Downtown Brooklyn restaurant — a stone’s throw from Manhattan Bridge and Borough Hall — serves a unique menu that combines Nigerian, Caribbean and African American cuisine. It has launched and supported countless Black-owned businesses, hosted parties for both royal visits and grandmas’ birthdays, and has been a place where discussion about Black self-determination has flourished.

Adewumi wears a necklace honoring Osun, a West African goddess deity representing love, fertility and regeneration. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.
Adewumi wears a necklace honoring Osun, a West African goddess deity representing love, fertility and regeneration. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.

Adewumi was born in the U.S. but grew up in Nigeria. The seeds for his mission were first sown when he moved back to New York in the 10th grade, and he said his accent and style had changed, and he felt “culturally insecure,” even ostracized, by other Black American kids due to being African.

He pushed against those perceptions and was led to Howard University, where his appetite for Black liberation and Pan-Africanism grew. On his first day on campus, he wore a dashiki and was respected for it.

“It was my signature moment, I was that kid that represents Africa and it felt amazing.”

When it came to opening Amarachi in 2004, the idea was to marry African, Caribbean and African American influences, all essential in the Black experience. The idea was a hit, and Amarachi — which originally opened as a bar on Franklin Avenue — thrived.

In 2016, Amarachi hosted Nigeria’s highest ranking king and 16 other kings in an event that required the street to be blocked off and a police escort. In 2021, it held a fundraiser for then-Borough President Eric Adams. “Obama could have come here. Anyone could have,” Adewumi said.

Patrons at Amarachi. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.
Patrons at Amarachi. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.

With support from the community, the Adewumis have navigated the global financial crisis, gentrification, a major move to downtown Brooklyn, expansion into serving food, and the pandemic.

However, after a brutal 2022, Adewumi says the restaurant is now facing the fight of its life, with owners hoping to raise $100,000 to get the restaurant back on its feet.

“It’s very humbling to do a GoFundMe, because people always think, ‘Oh, they’re a failure,'” Adewumi told BK Reader from a window seat in the Downtown Brooklyn establishment this past Friday.

“It’s not really failure, you have to look at all the factors that contribute to why a person is crying out for help.”

The fundraiser aims to raise $100,000. Photo: GoFundMe.
The fundraiser aims to raise $100,000. Photo: GoFundMe.

Adewumi served as the president of the Black Restaurant Coalition in New York until Thanksgiving, (when he resigned due to the stress of trying to save Amarachi) and said most restaurants faced their “worst year ever” in 2022.

This was due to New York’s mishandling of the industry during the pandemic, policies that specifically hurt Black businesses, a lack of government assistance, inflation and customers themselves struggling with the cost of living, he said.

Amarachi was “at its peak” in 2019 — in terms of profitability — when the pandemic hit, Adewumi said. Almost immediately, the family suffered an unfathomable loss with the death of Joseph’s brother, Jonathan Adewumi, to COVID-19.

Jonathan was “the most popular one among us,” Joseph said. He was an entrepreneur who created a fashion company that dressed celebrities like Stevie Wonder in Nigerian fashion, he started a Nigerian film festival and he made connections with people all over Brooklyn and beyond.

Bub Adewumi. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.
Joseph Adewumi. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.

“An amazing human being, he was our Muhammad Ali. The impact of losing him just can’t be replaced.”

Then, through 2020 and 2021, Amarachi navigated the lockdowns, mandates, and health and safety requirements of the city as best it could, despite “suffering tremendously” due to decisions Adewumi said were not data-driven and were not thought through.

One of those decisions was the vaccine passport, he said.

“In the Black community, everyone knows vaccine hesitancy is a thing. Everyone knows that to have that in place, you’re basically telling Black businesses, ‘You’re going to die.’ There was no discussion on how do you circumvent the businesses from suffering.”

Pandemic loans were either restrictive or didn’t come through at all, including a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan  Adewumi spent eight months applying for in 2022. Meanwhile, inflation has made the cost of doing business higher.

Despite this, Adewumi said he and his family were “optimists to a fault,” and he kept believing things would get better through the past year.

“And then you realize that you’ve been taking out a lot of loans hoping things will pick up and you can’t take out any more loans and the government isn’t offering any more assistance.”

Desperate, Adewumi found himself saddled with several high-interest loans.

“There was a point where I was paying over $1,500 daily. In a week I could pay up to $10,000 in loans… It’s a horrible, horrible situation. I have never felt more sick in my life, just physically stressed and sick every morning waking up.”

Right now, Amarachi has not been able to pay its rent since September. Adewumi is hoping the community will rally around the restaurant, either with donations or bookings, to help it present a significant check to the landlord soon.

Amarachi hosts many functions and events. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.
Amarachi hosts many functions and events. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.

At the same time, Adewumi said he knows his customer base is suffering, too. He recently held a fundraiser with a free buffet and said people came for the free meal but most were unable to donate.

“It’s hard for everyone out there,” he said.

However, he believes in the legacy and importance of Amarachi to the Brooklyn community.

“Sure you could just absorb it and close down, and I thought about that. But then I’ve had so many conversations with people saying, ‘You can’t just close because it’s not just about you selling food, you are part of this community you’re historically significant to this community,'” he said.

“It has been a real community outcry to try to save us.”

Meanwhile, Adewumi said it is not just his business that is suffering, and he is calling on the city to develop strategies to save its diverse restaurants urgently.

“I don’t think this city wants to have its best restaurants close,” he said, adding that he would like to sit down and talk to Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul to work on solutions.

“Even if I lose this business, if we can save 1,000 others, that would be worth it, because I know the mental anguish alone I go through is not healthy — and we have a lot of unhealthy people walking around right now going through it. We need to do better as a society.”

To donate to Amarachi, click here.

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

Join the Conversation

21

  1. Hi I’ve eaten @ amarachi several times. Food is good service n atmosphere. Would like for it 2 stay in community.

  2. Hmmm…. I attended a comedy show at Amarachi in the summer of 2022. The customer service was below sub-standard, the food was overly salty and the atmosphere reeked of strife and contention. Let’s just say, “ Comedy did not save the day.”After nearly an hour, a black waitress acknowledged me. And after she served me , she attempted to charge me for a meal that I didn’t even order. She was also very keen on suggesting that I order more than one alcoholic beverages after giving me one that was mixed way too strong. I was by myself so I think she believed that I was intoxicated and was out to prey on any vulnerable customer. The whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth; I gag to even recollect that day.
    And, that is the the kind of vibration that runs a business into six -feet -deep- ditch! The location is ideal for a restaurant business, however, I think that the business needs to look within. Management needs a revival, perhaps even an exorcism! The team/employees and business partners are a reflection of the business’ values and standards. And boy, there was little to marvel at save the location. Look within. There you will find the answers that will lead you to saving your business.

      1. Name a time that speaking facts and speaking the truth was more of a hindrance than help. Oh yeah, you can’t!! Sharon, it is you who need help. I’ll pray for you. No one is requesting your mouthpiece. You pose a poor argument that has done nothing to help save this man’s business. Go in peace ✌️

  3. Thank you for featuring this gem in Brooklyn. I hand-selected Amarachi for my engagement party venue in 2016, and dealt with both Joseph and his late brother, Jonathan, during the planning process.

    It is heart-breaking to know that this community staple is facing hardship, but I know residents will show the utmost love and support to this business, including myself. Wishing them all the best, and goodness for 2023 and beyond.

  4. The suffering is real. Most of us are hanging on by a string. Bills are piling up as are costs are shooting through the roof. Landlords have raised our rents in most cases which just adds to the nightmare. Hang in there Bub, you are not alone in this fight.

  5. I never met the owner personally but he’s given several of my peers who are budding entrepreneurs a safe space to promote and sell their products via pop-up shops …Also I’ve had the food and my favorite thing on menu aside from the African cuisine is the oxtails . I think this restaurant deserves to stay open based on that fact alone imo . During this season his business deserves grace because he’s given grace the community as a whole imho

  6. I will be reaching out to Bub this a very special man to me and my family. My daughter gave her first pop up affair at Franklin Ave location MylipsRpink.

  7. Amarachi food, atmosphere, and hospitality are a blessing to the community and its residents.
    PanAfrican tastes abound in the meals with proper spice and seasoning; these tastes are not for those with a poor palette, those spices are necessary for the dish to be authentic. For example- anyone with a fire and grill can barbecue chicken but Jamaican jerk chicken requires more than that – Amarachi delivers. Similarly, Beef Suya is a complex dish that is not for the faint of heart -if the flavors are unfamiliar or overwhelming, maybe try another dish before criticizing, or ask the waitstaff for a suggestion that might complement the meal.
    As a longtime patron I can attest to their professionalism and product -an atmosphere and culinary experience as unique and wonderful as the city and culture that birthed them: Brooklyn NYC.

  8. Saving Amarachi, it’s a choice WE must all make. There’s nothing WE can’t do when WE come together.

  9. Time to find a cheaper location and reinvent yourself. Moshood got priced out of Clinton hills fort Greene and is now thriving in Bedford Stuyvesant at a location twice the size of his Clinton hill location and 1/3 the price.

  10. Great place,ambiance is so kool,my 1st visit was in Jan.2022.I knew I wanted to come back,so i reserved the VIP area for my Director surprise party,everyone enjoyed,food,music & drinks were all good.i hope this establishment stay open.

  11. Did my part by hosting a table there today. Everything was perfect just as I remember. Please Support this pillar of the community. Money & patronage talks, Everything else walks

  12. Sorry to hear this. My husband took me there for a special birthday party many years ago when we still lived in the neighborhood. It was there before they put it most of those other skyscrapers that mar the entrance to the Brooklyn bridge now. It is a unique combination of palates. I hope it survives.

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