Non-Asian Owned Bar in Washington D.C. to Change Name Over Filipino Cultural Appropriation

barkada bar

A Washington D.C. wine bar is now looking to change its name after being called out and accused of cultural appropriation for using a Filipino slang word for its branding even though no Filipino food is served and no one of Filipino descent works at the establishment.


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Growing and glowing… but not open yet! . . . . . #winebar #ustreetdc #dcwine #dcdrinks #dcliving

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Attracting attention: Barkada Wine Bar, which opened its doors in U Street NW, Washington D.C. earlier in July, attracted much attention online after Eater released a story about the wine bar this week, according to Washington City Paper.

  • Barkada is slang in Tagalog — one of the spoken dialects in the Philippines — that means a group of close friends.
  • “I pushed for the idea that it didn’t matter if our name was in a different language or not,” one of the four White owners of the bar, Sebastian Zutant, told the publication earlier this month. “I didn’t want to call it posse or homies or clique.”
  • However, the wine bar does not offer anything related to Filipino culture and doesn’t have Filipinos on staff.

Backlash: After articles were published on local food outlets, many in the Filipino American community called out the wine bar for cultural appropriation.

  • Facebook user Jessica Millete described the bar’s name as “problematic on so many levels” in a Facebook post.
  • “Completely ignorant and of course, a PRIVILEGED thought-process. What makes you think it’s okay to take a word from another culture when you pay no respect or homage to the culture itself? No Filipino items on your menu, no Filipino flavors incorporated, no Filipino winemakers included, not even in your decor? No support going towards a non-profit benefiting Filipino Americans or back in Philippines?” she said. “Not to mention, the Philippines was colonized by SPAIN and SO much of your wine menu is from there!”
  • “Your barkada would actually save you from making a big, honking, culturally appropriating faux pas. Like choosing a name from a language, people, and culture that you have absolutely no connection to. And featuring wines from said country’s colonizer, but not food or drinks from the country itself,” Facebook user Dorothy Garcia said in a comment on Eater’s post. “Your barkada would expect you to do better than that.”

The aftermath: The owners of the Barkada Wine Bar have decided to change its name following the social media backlash, Eater reported.

  • In an Instagram post and on the company website, Zutant, along with his co-owners Nick Guglietta, Anthony Aligo and Nate Fisher, said they “missed the mark” when they tried to go outside of their language to capture the sense of friendship.
  • “We apologize to all we offended, and to our community we hope to serve,” the owners said. “It was never our intention to appropriate or capitalize on the Filipino culture and we recognize we fell short in engaging more of the Filipino community. Our goal is to be a gathering place for friends in the neighborhood, and to become friends with those neighbors.”
  • Although they are active in their attempt to change the name, Guglietta said they are not rushing on what to call their restaurant.
  • So far, the only easy option is to “remove branding and operate nameless” as the process “is not going to be turned around in 24 hours, because there’s a lot of steps to take in changing a name,” Guglietta said.
  • “Part of the reason we did this is not because it’s our identity but we resonated with the meaning and thought behind the word,” he added. “But it was a mistake.”
  • In addition to changing the name, the owners also announced plans to donate all proceeds from their opening to the Filipino community.


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Feature Image via BarkadaDC

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