Dae, a new design shop and café that opened in Carroll Gardens this summer, serves photogenic checkerboard butter on milk bread and sells equally photogenic home goods like a hammered-metal pour-over coffee brewer. Its meticulously curated space has a no-laptop policy, so that people can concentrate on their misugaru ice cream served in a silver goblet. But over the past two months, its problem has not been unsanctioned laptop users — it’s been hordes of influencers armed with tripods. The situation has gotten so bad that Dae had to take the drastic step of banning people from taking photos and videos inside the shop entirely (with the exception of “quick snaps” at one’s own table). As it posted in an Instagram Story earlier this week: “We love food and drink photos (clearly) … but the TikToks and Instagram photoshoots have gotten a bit out of control for us.”
The café, which also serves as a wine bar and private event space, took off on TikTok almost immediately after it opened in August. It was started by two former Opening Ceremony employees who know how to make a space feel special and unusual (nothing from the shop can be bought anywhere else in the city, for example). “This Korean-owned café was straight from my pinterest board,” one person posted on TikTok. The TikTok account @chewyorkcity, which has 147,000 followers, dubbed it “the most aesthetic and delicious spot in Brooklyn.”
How bad did it get? “People were coming in and literally doing photo shoots — they would just get one drink and stay for two hours shooting,” says Carol Song, the shop’s co-owner. While she’s grateful that people like the space, she’s seen influencers bring in Nikon cameras, set up tripods, and take photos of employees for their reels. Some people didn’t even order anything but snapped pictures of food and drinks on nearby tables. “It’s a free-for-all — no one’s regulating the TikTokers,” Song says, laughing.
While some businesses have leaned into the publicity that influencers bring them, Dae is taking a different approach. From conception, Song says she didn’t want an influencer-branded space: “I didn’t want to be a place where people just come and go for the trend.” So far, she notes that they haven’t gotten too many negative reactions to the ban: “I regret we didn’t do it from the beginning. But I did not know it was going to get to this level.”