Hawaii-Themed Restaurant Forced to Close After Accusations of Cultural Appropriation

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By Lukas Mikelionis | 6:56 am, July 4, 2017

A Hawaii-themed restaurant owner in Oregon was forced to close down following accusations of cultural appropriation.

Cloud Davidson opened The Hapuna Kahuna Tiki Bar & Kitchen on June 22. He was forced to shut it down just weeks later.

“I unintentionally made a mistake and I’m very sorry,” Davidson told The Corvallis Gazette-Times on Friday.

The business owner claims he opened the restaurant because he spent much time in Hawaii in his youth visited family who lived there. “A lot of this has to do with family. That was a big part of my childhood.”

According him, however, locals of Polynesian ancestry and the Oregon State University Asian and Pacific Cultural Center criticized his newly-opened venue, pointing out how he used a Hawaiian name, displayed traditional iconography in a cartoonish way, and handed out Hawaiian leis to customers.

“I’m very sympathetic to the issues that were brought up to me. And I’m not for a moment going to tell a person of color that they’re wrong for how they feel,” he said.

As well as the complaints about the decorations, some grumbled that the venue didn’t sell authentic Hawaiian food.

Davison has apologized on Facebook, pledging to remove the culturally insensitive decorations from the restaurant. He also announced that the venue will be reopened – but only as a bar and an extension of another place in the building he owns.

A local forum on social media, however, was conflicted about the closing. Some questioned whether it was appropriate for cooks who aren’t from a certain culture to make that culture’s food.

Others debated the origins of Tiki culture, claiming it’s merely a mix of tropical influences, including some Asian and Western countries, and can’t be described as “culture”.

This isn’t the very first time a restaurant was forced to shut down. Owners of Burrito pop-up shop Kooks Burritos in Portland were hounded by locals and  accused cultural appropriation and “stealing” recipes from Mexico.