A bar in Melbourne, Australia that launched with a Vietnam War concept has apologized after a massive backlash on social media.
Users are especially outraged as Rickshaw Bar sits on Swan Street in Richmond, a suburb home to many Vietnamese immigrants since 1976 — starting from those who fled the war. A 2016 census report showed almost 1,400 people were Vietnamese immigrants, with Vietnamese being the most popular spoken language besides English. The Vietnam War lasted 20 years and resulted in 1.3 million deaths, according to Broadsheet.
Aside from the obvious social media theme, Rickshaw decorated its interior with a black and orange motif, an apparent nod to the herbicide Agent Orange which the U.S. had used to attack Vietnamese communists during the war.
Agent Orange contains the chemical dioxin, which has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other medical problems suffered by generations of Vietnamese civilians, 3 million estimated by the Red Cross, to this day.
Ngoc Tran, a second-generation Vietnamese restaurant owner, slammed Rickshaw’s concept as “peak white boy energy.”
“I’m so f*cking tired. I’m so tired of white people capitalizing [sic] POC trauma,” Tran wrote on Instagram, urging the business to do better.
“Destruction of my home is not your aesthetic. AGENT ORANGE IS NOT A F*CKING AESTHETIC. My family didn’t go through all that trauma (and still is) for your own personal gain. It’s tacky and insensitive af.”
Rickshaw is owned by David Anderson and Stuart Neil, who are not Vietnamese. Others called the bar “pathetic,” “disgusting” and “so incredibly f*cked” after its photos went viral, according to Junkee.
Following the backlash, Rickshaw issued an apology “to anyone that was offended” before deleting its Instagram page.
“We have taken down our content and apologise to anyone that was offended or found the content inappropriate,” the bar said. “We have revised our tone and are working hard to make this right. Sorry for any distress caused — it was never our intent.”
In a statement to Broadsheet, the owners said they were “saddened” that the concept for their “cool little bar” has caused upset in the community. “Upon reflection, we have decided to revisit the fit-out for the venue and will make some changes to ensure Rickshaw Bar is a fun and friendly venue for people to come and enjoy our hospitality,” they added.
The Vietnam War themed bar in Richmond has scrubbed its IG account and posted a “sorry if you’re offended” type apology pic.twitter.com/amvkKjYglk
— Joshua Badge (@joshuabadge) March 10, 2021
Tran told Time Out that the bar’s theme did not just offend Vietnamese refugees, but others with similar experiences.
“It promotes war and PTSD that is passed on through generations,” Tran said. “Not only have they excluded half of Richmond’s community, they’ve excluded Australian war vets too, as well as other refugees and asylum seekers from war-torn countries who can only expect their experiences to be trivialised.”
Australia’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs also commented on the matter.
“The Department of Veterans’ Affairs recognises the effect of the Vietnam War on all those involved. DVA is committed to the commemoration of historic military events and encourages individuals or organisations to acknowledge our involvement in wars, conflicts and peace-keeping operations in a solemn, respectful and dignified way.”
Feature Image Screenshots via Rickshaw Bar