After receiving a flurry of criticism online for using a word from the Tagalog language native to the Philippines as the name for their new wine bar off U Street NW, the four white male owners of Barkada have promised to find a new name.
Preview coverage from Washington City Paper earlier this month and Eater DC yesterday drew attention to the bar, which does not serve Filipino food or drinks but attempted to adopt the name “Barkada” because it signifies a tight-knit group of friends. The owners said they felt that described their own friend group as well as the type of community they hoped to build at the bar. But less than 24 hours after Eater published a story Wednesday that included a cursory explanation of the name, partners Sebastian Zutant, Nick Guglietta, Nate Fisher, and Anthony Aligo agreed to heed the calls of commenters flooding the bar’s Instagram page asking to change the name.
One Facebook commenter listed as Dorothy Garcia responded to a link sharing Eater’s story by writing, “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. Your barkada would expect you to do better than that.” Another commenter, listed as Ernest Jay Mandario Apaga, wrote, “Four white guys using a filipino word to name your bar is the 1990’s spiritual equivalent to getting tattoos of chinese symbols on your triceps ... this isn’t the kind of representation anyone was looking for but thanks for the appropriation!”
Guglietta confirmed to Eater that the group has committed to making a change shortly after he and his partners signed their name to apologetic statements, posted on the bar’s website and Instagram, that said they “missed the mark” and are “actively looking to change our identity and brand and engage in further dialogue with each of you.” The statement includes a pledge to donate proceeds from the opening to the Filipino community. Guglietta says the owners have already made plans to meet with members of the community for an “open dialogue.”
Zutant, a well-established sommelier in D.C. who owns Primrose in Brookland, attracted buzz to the new bar. He had curated a list of offbeat natural wines that included labels from Spain, which ruled the Philippines as a colony for more than 300 years. The bar also planned to sell trendy tinned fish, smoked salmon from Ivy City Smokehouse, and charcuterie from Stachowski Market in Georgetown.
“I pushed for the idea that it didn’t matter if our name was in a different language or not,” Zutant told WCP in an early July article. “I didn’t want to call it posse or homies or clique.”
The owners do not plan to rush into finding a new name for the restaurant. Guglietta says that they haven’t decided what to call the restaurant in the interim, but the easiest option would be to “remove branding and operate nameless.” He says 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.”
“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,” Guglietta says. “But it was a mistake.”
Guglietta says the owners spent five months coming up with the name. He says in the course of considering Barkada, they received positive feedback from a few friends with Filipino heritage, but the owners recognize they should have done more to evaluate the decision.
Here’s the full statement on the restaurant’s website:
We ‘re changing the name. We reached out to many people in the community to find a name that embodied a sense of friendship and bond between people. When we ventured outside of our own language to capture that sentiment, we missed the mark. We apologize to all we offended, and to our community we hope to serve. 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. We still hope to carry through the ideals of friendship, starting with our ability to listen. We are actively looking to change our identity and brand and engage in further dialogue with each of you. We look forward to hearing more of your thoughts, and how we can better capture the ideals with which we started this project. We will be donating proceeds from our opening to support the Filipino community as well. Barkada is a beautiful word with a deep meaning of friendship. We want to honor that, and you, as we move forward. We hope to hear from you at BarkadaWineBar@gmail.com
Anthony, Nick, Nate, & Sebastian
Tierney Plumb contributed to this report