A bar in Melbourne, Australia that adopted elements related to the Vietnam War as an aesthetic theme, including for decor and marketing, faced a heavy backlash and subsequently issued an apology.
The Rickshaw Bar recently opened in a neighborhood within Melbourne’s Richmond area known as “Little Saigon” and adopted Vietnam War-related themes to advertise to customers.
The bar’s Instagram profile read “comfortably numb” and included war-related imagery including a photo of Operation Frequent Wind captioned, “Leave Your Ride at Home,” and bullets displayed in beer glasses.
The establishment invited customers to “settle into a booth or bunker down at the bar,” and contained signage reading, “There’s no smoke without fire.” In addition, the bar sported burnt orange decor and alleged references to Agent Orange.
The bar’s décor and marketing prompted an outcry from members of the public, including members of Australia’s Vietnamese community, who felt that the bar was seeking to profit from war-related suffering.
“We’ve been displaced because of the war, and we’re fed up of our trauma and pain being capitalized on,” community member Ngọc Trần, whose parents were refugees to Australia from Vietnam, told TimeOut Melbourne.
“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 trivialized,” Trần said.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Veterans Affairs commented on the controversy, expressing the view that Australian involvement in wars should be approached in “a solemn, respectful and dignified way.”
The bar issued an apology: “We have taken down our content and apologise to anyone that was offended or found the content inappropriate. We have revised our tone and are working hard to make this right. Sorry for any distress caused – it was never our intent.” Its website and Instagram account have since been removed.