Oregon Bar Under Fire for 'China Virus Hours' Sign, Yelp Turns off Reviews

An Oregon bar has come under fire for describing its coronavirus regulation hours as "China virus" hours on a sign. After a photo of the sign outside the Trophy Club Bar and Grill in Medford was circulated on social media, the bar was flooded with negative reviews on Yelp—leading the website to suspend comments.

Ken Narasaki, a fourth-generation Asian American, posted a photo of the sign to Facebook and Twitter on January 27. In a Facebook status update, Narasaki wrote: "A sign that proves that racism is alive and sick in Medford, Oregon.

"I know from my own personal experience and from the experience of many of my Asian American friends, not to mention countless news articles, that Trump's (and others') use of the racist term 'China virus' led directly to hatred, open hostility and violence against Asians and Asian Americans (racists never know the difference).

"People have been beaten, have had acid thrown in their faces and have been spit on by people like this bar owner/manager. Unless you're a white supremacist or think that maybe white supremacists might have a point, I suggest you not go here."

#racist A literal "sign" that racism and Trumpism is alive and sick. Their phone number: (541) 772-4131 pic.twitter.com/uEwUf9tdHZ

— Ken Narasaki (@KenNarasaki) January 27, 2021

Following the backlash over the sign, News 10 reported that the Trophy Club Bar and Grill released a statement saying: "We are not and never have been racist, nor have our employees. The sign was not intended to be racist.

"It was to make light out of the situation we all have been going through for the past year. We apologize to whoever we offended. That was not our intention."

Former President Donald Trump was among those who used the phrase "China virus" to refer to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) warning against using terms that could perpetuate racism and xenophobia.

Trump repeatedly denied that the phrase was racist and said he used it because the coronavirus originated in China.

Narasaki told KOBI-TV NBC5: "Every time anything happens, you know, having to do with Asia, Asian Americans usually take the brunt. I thought people should know this business was run by a racist person."

KOBI-TV NBC5 reported that Narasaki had called the bar owner to tell him the sign was offensive, but was allegedly met with someone speaking in an offensive "mock Asian" accent and using abusive language.

The bar in southwest Oregon has been flooded with one-star reviews on Yelp since the sign came to public attention. The website has now turned off the reviewing option.

A message on the Yelp website reads: "This business recently received increased public attention resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page, so we have temporarily disabled the ability to post here as we work to investigate the content.

"While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express points of view we might agree with)."

Many reviews left since Narasaki shared his post are about the sign, with a large number of commenters calling the bar racist.

Narasaki told Newsweek: "I'm a little peeved at some of the institutions—both the mayor and the city council refused to get involved—but really grateful for the local press for running the story, and all the people who wrote their own Yelp reviews, decrying the racism of the sign.

"So many people reached out to me to say that 'this is not Medford' and though there's always been a racist element here, there are also a lot of progressive people and I've found that to be true."

Closed Sign
File photo of a closed sign in the window of a business. A bar in Oregon has come under fire for using the phrase "China virus" in its opening hours sign. Matthew Horwood/Getty