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Chino Latino's ad for new menu: Is it racist?

UPDATE: In a change of heart, Chino Latino has apologized for the ad and reworked the campaign to be less offensive.

Following the recent rollout of a new menu featuring Indian-inspired cuisine, Parasole-owned Chino Latino is getting some backlash.


To introduce its "New India Street Sheet" menu items like cauliflower pakora, vindaloo pork, and paneer omelette, the Uptown fusion restaurant released an ad containing some decidedly offensive copy. 

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The ad depicts civilians walking the streets in what appears to be a mix of western and traditional Indian dress. In smaller font than the menu items, a bulleted list next to the image reads:

  • Untouchables welcome
  • Scimitars banned
  • No longer serving slumdog
  • I.T. Dept: Now Hiring!

Since it was sent out as an email blast, the ad has incensed many Twin Cities residents who identify as Desi (a slang term used by Indian people to refer to individuals and culture from the subcontinent), including Christy Spillman George and members of the Minnesota Bollywood Association.

"We are fans of irreverent humor and of Chino Latino," writes Spillman. "But in this case the attempt at 'edgy' humor has completely missed the mark, and has resulted in unfunny references to hurtful historical events and reinforcements of ugly stereotypes." 

This isn't the first time the Parasole Restaurant has been called out for shocking and offensive ad campaigns, spearheaded by marketing director Kip Clayton. A few years back there was major public outcry over a billboard that read "Happy Hour: Cheaper than a Bangkok Brothel" and another that read "Bachelorette Parties: Not Responsible for Damaged Goods." Even after Chino was ordered to pay $325,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought on by allegations of mistreatment of Hispanic employees, owner Phil Roberts brushed off comments from protesters  by saying he hopes to keep the ads "rather outrageous," adding, "I really do want people to be offended." He has also referred to the people who decry the billboards as "bedwetting hippies."

Well, if the job was to offend and enrage, this ad checked all the boxes for Spillman George. "This is roughly equivalent to, say, selling soul food with a side of slavery humor -- which we doubt would be so glibly tolerated."

Spillman George, her friends, and members of the MN Bollywood Association say they have tried to contact Parasole and Chino Latino via Facebook, emails, and phone calls, but so far their calls have gone unanswered and posts have been taken down or simply ignored. 

She and others would like to see the ad reworked and for the company to issue an apology. "Our hope is that Chino Latino isn't punished, but made aware that the ethnic communities of Minneapolis are viable sources of income, not fodder for their 'hipster racism'."

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Chino Latino

2916 Hennepin Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

612-824-7878

www.chinolatino.com


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