A Vietnam War-Themed Bar Has Issued A “Sorry If You’re Offended” Apology Following Criticism

The Rickshaw Bar team is "saddened" that their "cool little bar has caused upset in the community".

rickshaw bar apology

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A Vietnam War-themed venue, Rickshaw Bar, has issued an apology on Instagram after being rightfully slammed online.

The bar, led by David Anderson and Stuart Neil — two white men who are not of Vietnamese descent — was dubbed “pathetic”, “disgusting”, and “so incredibly fucked” after images from the venue’s Instagram started to circulate online.

“We have taken down our content and apologise to anyone that was offended or found the content inappropriate,” the apology posted to Instagram read before the account was deleted. “We have revised our tone and are working hard to make this right. Sorry for any distress caused — it was never our intent.”

The venue also issued a statement to Broadsheet, where the bar’s owners said they were “saddened” that their creative concept for a “cool little bar had caused upset in the community”.

“We are saddened that our creative concept for our cool little bar has caused upset in the community, it was never intended this way,” the statement read. “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.”

Prior to the Instagram account being completely scrubbed, Rickshaw Bar had images of beers filled with bullet casings, used fallen helicopters from Operation Frequent Wind to discourage drink driving, and populated the page with photos of branded dog tags and imagery of Vietnamese people.

A photo on the Instagram page even showed one of the venue’s beers being distastefully advertised as “something a little more radical”.

Along with the clear military theme on the bar’s Instagram page, the black and orange motif used throughout the bar’s interior is assumed to be a nod to Agent Orange, the chemical herbicide weapon used during the war that led to cancer, sickness, and birth defects for generations of Vietnamese people.

The “horrific” bar concept was first noticed by Liminal Magazine yesterday, a publication that focuses on the stories of Asian-Australians.

In a series of tweets, Liminal noted how tone-deaf it was for a Vietnam War-themed bar to open in a suburb with such a large Vietnamese population, and during a time where anti-Asian racism has grown due to the pandemic.

“In a year where anti-Asian racism has risen dramatically, this bar has opened *in Richmond*, a suburb with a strong Vietnamese population, including people who would have *literally fled this war*,” Liminal tweeted. “This is horrific.”

But beyond Rickshaw Bar’s Instagram page being incredibly insensitive, the venue’s original press release wasn’t that much better either.

Time Out reported that the release they received described the bar as a “dark and grungy space reminiscent of ’70s Saigon… with burnt orange and brushed gold details mirroring the fire that flashes from the kitchen and the bar”.

The release also mentioned the “charred wood paneling and army-green booths” along with the “empty bullet shells littered throughout” the venue, and posed the insensitive question: “Settle into a booth or bunker down at the bar?”

Of course, the most notable event in ’70s Saigon that has any relation to bullets was the Vietnam War, which lasted 19 years and killed an estimated 2-million civilians and another 1.1-million more fighters.

Strangely, even with these clear links to the Vietnam War, some publications like Urban List and Concrete Playground ran articles in support of Rickshaw Bar before criticism led the sites to delete their articles.

“With a flair for fire, the bar and eatery are bring all things craft beer, flaming cocktails, and charcoal barbecue to the table — no objection from us,” Urban List wrote.

“Even the beer list is straight fire, with owner David Anderson intent on showcasing only top-notch Victorian brews across his eight-strong indie tap rotation,” said Concrete Playground. 

But sadly this isn’t the first horribly themed location Australians have been presented with, and it very likely won’t be the last, either.

In 2016, Melbourne’s FAT Fried and Tasty were called out for turning dead rapper Notorious BIG into Notorious F.A.T to advertise the restaurant. Similarly, in 2017, Sydney bar Suey Sins was slammed for its “sexy pre-war Shanghai” theme.