Australian nightclub sells ‘Happy Ending’ cocktails at racist themed event

Editor’s note: Ranier Maningding is the editor and mastermind behind the social justice page “The Love Life of an Asian Guy.” The opinions expressed in this article are his own.

I first heard of Mr. Chan’s page after someone shared a Facebook post he made for a “Corona Chinese New Year Special”.

It’s a crappy racist meme for sure, but I was more curious who the hell was behind Mr. Chan’s account. Who would be so bold and outspoken about their racism, and what kind of person would put their business at risk just to have a cheap racist laugh?

So I dug a little deeper and found that Mr. Chan’s is the name of an event that takes place every Friday at a bar in Prahan, Australia called Pawn & Co.,”the first bar in the Universe where everything is for sale, from the chair you sit on to the drink you hold.”

If you visit the website and social media pages from Pawn & Co., their Saturday and Sunday events look like the typical party photos you see on someone’s Instagram stories. When you switch to Mr. Chan’s account, each photo is slapped with a Fu Manchu logo and revelers and DJs are seen wearing Asian rice hats. Their whole flow looks like the typical racist fraternity and sorority parties which have gone viral in America, except the party is held every Friday.

From outdated jokes about MSG and sweatshops to broken English subtitles, their decision to focus solely on racial stereotypes, symbols and jokes proves that Mr. Chan was not an event created out of admiration for the Chinese or Asian culture, but as a marketing gimmick. so that Pawn & Co. can sell more drinks.

Mr. Chan’s tries to sidestep this criticism by expressing his love for Jackie Chan and the martial arts, and their place is littered with frames of Jackie Chan as if to say, “We? Racist? We LOVE Jackie Chan!”

Similar to anti-black racists who admire Kanye and Drake but hate black people, it’s also common for anti-Asians to praise Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee and still hold racist views about Asians.

Then I found a photo that made sense of everything:

As I sifted through dozens of posts from Mr. Chan, it was clear (by the somewhat infrequent number of actual Asians in their photos) that some of the customers were probably unfamiliar with the usual racist marketing of Pawn & Co. Some of them may have bumped into the bar with a bunch of out-of-town friends, or got kicked out of another bar and ended up at Pawn & Co. on a random Friday night.

But many customers, including the more than 20,000 followers they have on Facebook and 2,000 on Instagram, know exactly what’s going on. Anti-Asian racism did not fly over their heads. Jackie Chan’s photos, broken English and coronavirus jokes aren’t just marketing gimmicks, they’re pillars of Mr. Chan’s brand culture and they’re meant as a way to get customers to “relax.”

The idea is that if you’re willing to laugh at those shitty racist Asian jokes, then you’re probably the same type of “fun” person who also likes to party and spend money on drinks. It may sound like a stretch, but the marketing strategy of mixing racism and themed restaurants and bars is nothing new.

One mug of escape and two mugs of racism. Shaken

New York Public Library Archives

In the mid-1930s, Tiki bars and Tiki-themed restaurants were hugely successful in the United States. Americans were in the midst of the Great Depression, and Tiki Bars served as an affordable way to get away the reality of a failing Central America and retreating to Hawaii where, apparently, white people are allowed to do as they please without any consequences.

Loosely inspired by Polynesian aesthetics, the American Tiki was a bar subculture designed for middle-class white people. Early American Tiki illustrations often depict white men showered with attention by topless brunette women while the brown male characters are drunk and fighting people. Saying nothing, this Trader Vic’s menu cover says a lot about how white people saw themselves as the center of a culture they weren’t even a part of – a culture that didn’t even exist and didn’t represent the reality of true Polynesians.

By adopting this “Party like you’re on vacation!” mentality, the Tiki culture gave white people permission to throw caution and morality into the wind and ignore the culture they were horribly distorting because in the end it was a business that made money money and gave white customers a reason to pull away.

Same racism, different generation

As much as I hate primitive Tiki culture, Trader Vic had the decency to change his problematic ways. There’s no excuse for a modern bar like Pawn & Co. and Mr. Chan’s. Not today. Not in 2020. Not when the availability of real Asian culture information is there, accessible and free. Not in a place like Australia where 10% of the population is Asian.

But who am I kidding? These people clearly don’t really care about Asian culture or Asian people. While I wish a place like this would close, I also know that when one racist store closes, five more pop up. Honestly, I don’t think writing this article will change Mr. Chan much, or stop racist white people from using ethnic cultures they know nothing about as a backdrop to sell more clichés.

However… Just because there are no consequences for racists doesn’t mean we have to stop talking. My hope with this article, and every story we cover about a racist establishment, is to set a breadcrumb trail that the Asian community can look back on 10 years from now and think, “Thank goodness this place has closed.”

Jerry C. Greiner