CBD rum bar The Lobo Plantation has had to rethink its name in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’ll now be known as The Lobo, with the bar’s owner Jared Merlino saying the move is “in solidarity with BIPOC [black, Indigenous and people of colour] in the Caribbean rum industry and around the world.
“Though it was never our intent, we acknowledge that the word ‘plantation’ is offensive, given the history of plantations in the Caribbean and the US and the oppression and exploitation that happened around the mass production of sugar,” Merlino says.
Merlino says the move was made to ensure all guests, from Australia and abroad, felt safe, welcome and included in the bar. “At the end of the day that is what we pride ourselves on and credit our seven years of success to: being exceptional hosts who make exceptional drinks with a spirit from one of the most beautiful parts of the world. A name is simply a name and if we are able to change that to reduce the potential of offending or upsetting even one person, then we are more than happy to make that change.”
The use of the word “plantation” (and the romanticising of plantations themselves) has come under fire in recent years due to its association with slavery. Sugarcane crops were planted across the Caribbean islands, with slaves brought from Africa to work the fields. The Caribbean became renowned for its sugarcane-distilled rum – it’s still one of the largest rum-producing regions in the world – in large part due to capital earnt from slave labour.
Merlino – who also runs Big Poppas, Kittyhawk and Bartolo – says that this is just the first step in “being more conscious” of the role the bar plays in helping to create an inclusive, open society. “We will be taking further steps in coming weeks to help raise awareness about BIPOC issues both locally and in the Caribbean, and using our position of privilege to help raise funds where we can,” he says.