Christchurch’s Wunderbar in Lyttelton attracted fury today after a refugees advocate posted a photograph which seems to run counter to its ‘nice people only’ slogan. Henry Oliver called to ask what they were up to.
Last night, Murdoch Stephens of Double the Quota, a refugee advocacy group, posted a photo of Wunderbar, a Lyttelton bar and music venue, on Twitter. The photo (below) shows a “Trump: Make America Great Again” sticker next to a “Refugees Welcome” sticker which appears to have been amended by hand to read “Refugees NOT Welcome”.
The tweet gained attention throughout the day, sparking debate over whether it was xenophobic to allow such stickers in a bar and even to what extent Christchurch can be generalised as racist.
I remember from visiting the bar and venue several times in the mid-00s that it used to house a foosball table in which Jews competed against Nazis (or were they German officers? I can’t remember exactly; it doesn’t exactly matter).
So when the bar opened this evening, I called to ask whether the bar’s owner or management were, in fact supporters of Trump and opposers of refugees. I talked to the bar manager who didn’t want to be named and told me that the bar’s owner Andrew Bishop was away and unavailable for comment. He told me there was a Trump sticker but denied that there was a Refugees NOT Welcome sticker.
No? I asked.
“No! Photoshop, mate,” he said dismissively.
He didn’t answer when asked whether he was a Trump supporter. “It’s a bar! It’s for conversation. It doesn’t make anybody a supporter of anything.”
“There’s doll’s heads, there’s bloody evil crosses, there’s art work, there’s all sorts here, mate.”
I asked whether he or the owner were supporters of, or affiliated with, any Trumpian politics or ideology.
“It’s part of the whole bar,” he said. “You can’t put an affiliation behind people like that. Everybody’s welcome in this bar. Everybody. Every single person in the universe. It’s a port town, there’s sailors, there’s every single race you can think of speaking every single language here, sometimes cross-dressers. Everything, all at once.”
That didn’t seem compatible with their old bar game. “What about the jews versus Nazis foosball table, is that still there?”.
“No,” he said. “That’s not here.”
I left the phonecall no closer to finding out whether these stickers were a misguided attempt at nihilistic quirkiness (which, not surprisingly, is a common alt-right theme), or indicative of a more deep-seated ideology.
Update, 25 October 2017:
Adam, a musician, wrote to us: “I played a show at Wunderbar about 2wks ago and can confirm that the refugees not welcome sticker is real. If it is a joke it is clearly lost on everybody, as they were a number of punters sporting swastika tattoos and seeming very comfortable there…”
“There was too much of a Green Room vibe to the place for my liking,” he wrote jokingly, referring to a 2015 horror movie about a punk band that gets held hostage at a remote venue by a neo-Nazis after a member of the band witnesses a murder.
Also, Twitter user @nzflaneuse tweeted: “The foosball table was created by the original owner. He didn’t pretend it didn’t exist, and after outcry, he painted over it. The new management are different people. I know the person who took the photo. They say it’s real… They were upset by the stickers but more so by the attitude of the bar staffer who “sneeringly” pointed them out to them in response to their anti-Trump badge.”
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