Fort Worth restaurateur unfazed by viral backlash over ‘emotional’ reasons for bar name

·3 min read

A Fort Worth bar went viral recently after a customer mocked its name on social media.

Restaurateur Brent Johnson, who owns bar9eleven, which is attached to the Rio Mambo location near I-20 and Chisholm Trail Parkway in southwest Fort Worth, is unfazed by the negative attention.

After a recent patron from Missouri ridiculed on Twitter the name and Johnson’s tribute to the 9/11 attacks, which are displayed in a series of images inside the bar, the New York Post and Texas Monthly have posted stories. The original post has nearly 20,000 likes and more than 2,000 retweets. Most of the comments deride the name and it has led to a few bogus online reviews by people who have never been to either the bar or restaurant.

“Honestly, I’m not a big Twitter guy, but I did read some of the stuff,” said Johnson, 62. “Most of those people aren’t from around here.”

Johnson changed the name after remodeling in 2013 as a way to keep the memory of the tragedy alive. The bar and restaurant originally opened on Sept. 11, 2001, as he recounts in a few paragraphs on the walls of the bar.

There was a week of Facebook chatter over the name at the time but none of it affected business, Johnson said. “It’s an old story. People who know me know it has nothing do with disrespect or disregard,” he said.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite for Johnson. And this latest viral moment is good example.

“I guarantee a week ago no one was thinking about 9/11,” he said. “We forget stuff. But this is the most tragic thing that’s happened in my lifetime. I thought about what it took for us to survive that; I’ve got people who have been working for me 25 years.”

It’s an inspiration, too, for Johnson, to “never forget” the resilience of the people in New York. He’s visited the site of the ground zero memorial.

“The American spirit to overcome that it, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It became an emotional thing for me. It’s part of our history.”

Johnson points out that 9/11 is never used to market the bar. For Johnson, the bar and restaurant and the events of 9/11 are forever intertwined. It’s deeply personal and not a marketing gimmick, he said. He isn’t bothered by some who take issue with the name.

“It has everything to do with remembering,” he said. “I respect their opinions. If I drove by and saw it in a vacuum and didn’t understand, I would do exactly what the gentleman did. I would stop and see what it’s all about.”