The Tiki Chick is Back With a Less Revealing Outfit, But Is It Stylish or ‘Retrograde’?

Photo by Patxi.

Soon-to-open restaurant Tiki Chick at 517 Amsterdam Avenue (85th Street) ran afoul of Community Board 7 last year because its sign included a caricature of a bare-breasted woman. Months later, the sign is back with a nod to modesty — a Hawaiian lei covering the lady’s chest. But the negative feedback about it hasn’t fully disappeared.

Tiki Chick is the latest spinoff from Jacob Hadjigeorgis, who also owns Jacob’s Pickles, Maison Pickle and Lucky Pickle Dumpling Co. The Pickle empire is very popular in the neighborhood, and has steadily expanded with new options that often play off the same theme — comfort food, pickles, a laid-back atmosphere.

The company received some negative feedback about the original Tiki Chick sign (seen below) at a community board meeting earlier this year when it applied for a liquor license.

The original sign. Photo by Danny Daly.

One attendee called it “culturally insensitive” while others objected to the bare-breasted cartoon. But adding the lei hasn’t quieted everyone. We’ve already heard one complaint from a community member that the new sign has “barely changed.”

Council Member Helen Rosenthal also criticized the sign, while supporting the restaurant’s right to use it.

“The owner of this business has complied with applicable government regulations, and it’s important to note that freedom of expression is protected in our country,” wrote Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “But we’re saddened that he’s chosen to represent a human being in such a retrograde way.”

The new sign. Photo by Danny Daly.

Arsham Kamali, director of operations for Pickle Hospitality, wrote in an email to West Side Rag that the original sign “received a ton of positive feedback from friends and members of the community,” but that “we indirectly heard some negative feedback from other members of the community” and decided to change it.

“It is worth noting that when we took down the initial sign, we received some feedback from several female members of the community who were extremely disappointed that we were censoring freedom of expression by changing the sign,” he wrote. “When the new sign went up, we believe we had addressed the concerns of the community. The new sign portrays a blue tropical avatar, covered and not exposed in anyway. No part of the sign should be offensive, similar to Starbucks’ siren logo (a mythical and fictitious mermaid).”

“Tiki Chick, and Pickle Hospitality, will continue to strive to be a positive member in the UWS community, for all its members,” he added.

Last we heard, Tiki Chick will feature drinks and small plates, with some food from the kitchens of sister restaurants Jacob’s Pickles and the Lucky Pickle Dumpling. The opening date has not yet been announced.

FOOD, NEWS | 65 comments | permalink
    1. Rob G. says:

      Oh my. Welcome to the neighborhood, Tiki Chick! If the high rent doesn’t getcha, the blue-haired ladies will!

      • Auntie Depression says:

        Agree with the welcome. This old (and definitely not blue-haired) non-scold smiles when she sees the logo. It’s neither pornography nor cultural appropriation. Auntie D. won’t be looking at her much because she has a crick in her arthritic neck, but wishes she still had Tiki Chick’s waistline. Modest suggestion: those offended by the image can do as Auntie does and just look straight ahead. (As for you, Sonny Boy, how about cutting out the blue-haired lady memes? They insult your intelligence.)

        • Rob G. says:

          I love you, Auntie D. You are wise. And at age 57 you can call me “Sonny Boy” any day of the week!

    2. Bill Williams says:

      CB7 is a mess. They’re just out of line on everything. Women are protesting all over the country for the right to go topless. There was just a parade in NYC at the end of August and what does Rosenthal mean when she says: “But we’re saddened that he’s chosen to represent a human being in such a retrograde way.”

      The UWS is just filled with humorless old scolds.

      • sp says:

        Agree entirely. There is this need to be constantly outraged about something, anything, at all times.

      • Nunn Ya says:

        If you are this put out about a flipping sign I bet your head would explode if your previous little bitties saw someone (GASP!) breastfeeding.

    3. West88 says:

      This is a joke, right?!? Next you’ll tell me community members will protest Mermaid Inn’s drawing of a full breasted sea creature.

      Case of people with too much time in their hands. Get over yourself and let’s focus on the fact that we no longer have an empty storefront and this restaurant group has single handedly made the UWS relevant again.

    4. UWSmom says:

      Nothong is resolved. She is still obviously unclothed under the flowers, and her implied dancing would easily shift the flowers out of place and expose toplessness. We will not be dining there as long as the sign is up. I also am saddened that my daughter and her claasmates would be exposed to it daily. Shame on Pickle Hospitality.

      • SickofUWScomplainers says:

        That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I pity your sheltered children. This revamp is the least offensive sign of a hula girl I have seen…I take it Hawaii is not on your family vacation list…

      • UWSgrl says:

        I can’t tell if this is sarcasm or not

      • NativeUWSider says:

        Shame on you, UWSmom for teaching your daughters to feel ashamed about the female body. Parents like you are the reason so many kids grow up with body issues.

      • NY10023 says:

        this is satire, right?

      • Tronald Dump says:

        Good. Lord.

        Guess your family will never be visiting any museum depicting any art from any culture or time-period as nudity may be involved. Or beaches in other countries where children are socialized differently and don’t stare/gawk at nudity because there has never been any reason to suspect that it is inappropriate. Have you ever turned on the television? Watched netflix? Gone to the movies? Used the internet? Walked by a store selling underwear (believe it or not those exist in the UWS)? Better not.

      • iz says:

        Good god I hope you’re joking.

      • steve says:

        this has to be a parody comment

      • MartinNYC says:

        This is satirical, right?

      • Cynthia Parzych says:

        You must be joking…right?

    5. Christine E says:

      There is so much wrong with their reasoning/excuses. The Starbucks logo shown was discontinued in 2011. Starbucks’ logo features a mermaid, an imaginary creature which by definition cannot be groped, unlike a tiki woman who could very well be real and easily assaulted by an inebriated bargoer which also is likely to exist given the Tiki Bar is by definition a bar.

      Please get this sign out of our community.

    6. NotImpressed says:

      We need to organize and demand that museums drape sashes around statues and cover paintings that depict body parts.

    7. AC says:

      CB7 needs to get replaced with a much younger crowd to reflect age of the community. Most of the people on this board are out of touch with today’s times.

    8. UWSHebrew says:

      anyone commenting negatively regarding this harmless sign needs to be on medication.

      • Cato says:

        I don’t really care one way or another about the sign (and I find the clamor of comments here somewhat silly), but I think that — particularly in the current national political climate — advocating the chemical suppression of dissent (and dissenters) is a horrifying idea.

    9. Leon says:

      Are you kidding me? I could somewhat understand people being upset at the topless character, but with the lei on her, it is perfectly fine.

      Trump is a scary nightmare destroying our country, there are homeless people all over our neighborhood, there are countless empty storefronts within a block or two of this location, and this is what people are worried about?

      Perhaps the people who are refusing to dine there because of this sign should use the money they are saving to pay for therapy.

    10. BIg Earl says:

      I really feel sorry for the adults who think they or their children will be offended by this sign. It’s sad how far as a people we have fallen when something as innocent as this sign draws such ire. Maybe buy your children a bubble they can live in to shield them from this tough life. If this bothers you so much, well, it’s gonna be a long, long life. Wait till those children discover what’s on the internet. But then again, Tiki Chick signs are well known gateways to the temptations of the internet.

      • mkmuws says:

        Imagine when they discover their own bodies!

        I’m thinking maybe solve the rest of the world’s problems (or even just your own) and then circle back to this one. Literally look the other way. Our society is meant to be expansive and inclusive, not policing of every little annoyance to you at the cost of limiting simple expression. Really, this should be a chuckler, a momentary relief from the ills truly plaguing all of us.

    11. Christine E says:

      If they insist on depicting a female (which is uncommon for tiki bar logos), and knowing the primary prior objection was toplessness, why didn’t the redesign ensure that she was in fact wearing a top. It really would have been easy to show, adjacent to the flowers, straps for an implied top.

      • Kevin says:

        We also have no idea if she’s wearing underwear under the grass skirt. Why didn’t the redesign add some discarded underwear packaging to the side (or a receipt, at the very least), to imply she’s wearing underwear?

      • George says:

        To Big Earl and Leon and UWSHebrew and SickofUWScomplainers, and others who think it’s ridiculous to be bothered by this, it’s great that this doesn’t offend you. But there are a significant amount of people who are saying that it is bothersome and perhaps it’s worth listening to them rather than relying on your own personal feelings.

        This is a logo. It’s an intentional piece of design and marketing that can be almost anything and does not *need* to be a topless woman. There’s a huge difference between a deliberate decision around branding and a woman choosing to display her own body in public (whether it’s beachwear, going topless, etc.).

        When I first saw this logo at Taste of the Upper West Side, it didn’t strike me as problematic. But as a designer myself, I can also recognize when I might have my own biases or blindspots and am willing to listen to people when they have concerns.

      • Marc says:

        “A human being”? “Retrograde” depiction? “Topless”?

        There are some major inconsistencies in this neighborhood-rattling mystery.

        She is either:
        1) wearing a full-body spanx, incl. face mask, probably because winter is around the corner, or
        2) an alien – in which case noone has a good grasp of the appropriate look or depiction.

        After all, she is… BLUE.

        So why is everyone up in arms?

    12. Fifiefofum says:

      Why should the female body not be celebrated? It is ridiculous to tell women to cover up their bodies to make you more comfortable. As a sign of a tiki bar, this image is relevant to Polynesian custom. And for those who are concerned that this sign will somehow send a negative message to your children, especially girls, it is more harmful to send the message that there is somehow shame in the female form and that it should be covered up. Please open your minds.

    13. Ponald Plump says:

      I’d recommend Community Board Seven use their seemingly unending expanses of “discussion time,” collective wisdom and gift of decisive strategic analysis to address other significant issues such as the presence of underwear/lingerie shops on the UWS which are clearly an affront to the senses and should at the very least be banned from having display windows and have a minimum age limit of 30 to enter.

    14. VERONICA says:

      Really. Your daughter and her classmates are exposed to more T&A on television and any newsstand and to you this is a crisis. Your absence will be appreciated by the other patrons.

    15. Bz says:

      All being equal…maybe they should add a man with a lei around his penis

      • EricaC says:

        Hear hear – naked, but with a lei artfully draped over his crotch.

      • uwsgrl says:

        actually- no, that’s not equal because you’ll notice that her bottom half is covered quite fine with a skirt. Now if you want equality, one side can depict a man in a grass skirt as well, with a lei to cover his front. THAT is equal.

      • Westsidegal says:

        @bz it’s 2019. She prob already has a penis.

    16. Mr. G says:

      Jesus … The folks who complain that it is “culturally insensitive” have probably never been to Hawaii or know a damn thing about the culture … Are they complaining about the logo @ Mermaid Inn where there is a full on BREAST AND NIPPLE BEING SHOWN?! Get a goddamn life, and stop hating on this man bringing some amazing taste to the UWS … #freethenipple #growup #youareveryboredontheUWS

    17. Chris says:

      Ugh. I’m having an Ashcroft flashback!

    18. Sad says:

      Let’s see. At this point, in favor of the sign, I count 8 men, 2 women, and 4 gender unknown (gender assumed from screen name and omitting commenters not clearly taking sides). Against the sign, I count 2 women and possibly 1 man (who claims to see both sides). Some may call this an overwhelming majority in favor. On the other hand, since the logo depicts a female body, shouldn’t women be the only ones with an actual say in the matter? On this count it is 50/50.

      Additionally the male commenters seemingly are affronted that women deign to express an opinion on “morals,” and instruct the objectors to “get over yourself,” get therapy, take medication, etc. Much like the all-male reproductive health panels who claim to be authorities over all things female.

      If women are being treated like second class citizens on the upper west side, what hope is there for the nation.

      • Puzzling says:

        On the other hand, since the logo depicts a female body, shouldn’t women be the only ones with an actual say in the matter?

        Do men get full say over their bodies and male logos? What an odd form of logic. I think all parties should have a voice.

      • 35yearoldwoman says:

        I’m a female and like the sign. No understanding of why there are issues taken with it.
        The only thing I’m offended by here is the lack of solid reasoning in your post.

    19. Moishe says:

      I’m sure if this were a Gaugin naked woman it would be fine for the humorless trolls who live on the UWS. There are far worse movie ads at bus stops!

    20. hailey says:

      a male business owner using a drawing of a nude pacific islander woman to attract people into his restaurant is not feminism. lol

    21. NotImpressed says:

      I am so glad winter is coming.
      I am terribly offended at the state of undress I see with young men and women cavorting in shorts and tshirts in the park.
      Sometimes I even see men without shirts!
      We need a morals police to arrest these violators of moral decency.

      • His-Herstory Buff says:

        Re: “We need a morals police to arrest these violators of moral decency.”

        Welcome back, Queen Victoria!

        Guess you’re not really dead.

        But, seriously, Your Highness, as you often said, “WE ARE NOT AMUSED”.

    22. Rupaullover says:

      If you really want to go after sexism and this logo then ask who are you to assume this is even a female? It could be a man in drag for all you know. Perhaps a person in transition? How presumptuous to assume anything other than this is a person dressed on a grass skirt and lei. I mean come on, I’ve seen some very curvy and petite drag queens who would fit the image on the sign!

    23. Carlos says:

      To those who are offended by this, please note that Daniel Tiger, a character targeted towards children in nursery school, does not wear pants. No one complains about this.

      I agree with Leon above (who was unfairly criticized by George) – I can somewhat understand the angst over the first sign that showed uncovered breasts, but the second one is really harmless.

      I wish those who were upset about this were just as upset about the homeless man a block away who routinely drops his pants and goes to the bathroom on Broadway, yet seems to have a permanent home in front of Victoria’s Secret. Real life nudity troubles me a lot more than a sketch of it.

    24. Dolores Del Río says:

      Oh for Heaven’s sake, Lighten up. It’s a retro cartoon for a 50’s-themed Bar, high above the street. . Go picket Victoria’s Secret’s floor to ceiling window photos of real 14-year-olds in panties instead

    25. Jamie Blau says:

      Well, it wasn’t the darn board. I live in a building nearby and my neighbors were freaking out. I actually think this sign is less appropriate than the original. I really have no idea what upset them. Now, it’s a cultural disaster. Looking forward to my umbrella drink! Good luck, Jacob!! Thank you for all the great food you bring!

    26. Michael C Hall says:

      Everyone needs to relax

      • BillyNYC says:

        Relax… did you say RELAX!!
        This is the Upper West Side… God forbid if you should ever sneeze after 9 PM!!

    27. N8er says:

      Can we also please discuss how the word “bar” being illuminated like that in such an alluring shade of blue is clearly a ploy to draw underage drinkers into the establishment? The Pickle People are coming for our families.

    28. David @ UWS says:

      The original sign was fantastic. The new one is fine. Shame on anyone complaining. Shame on you all. This is America. Dear Complaining Folks: please take your MAGA dictatorial tendencies and file them away in the trash can.

      • Effy says:

        Have a feeling this wasn’t the live and let live MAGA people…but cultural appropriation, prude leftist UWS nonsense.

    29. Jeffus Maximus says:

      If I lived in this neighborhood, I’d be so embarrassed by the asinine, pearl-clutching histrionics of my idiotic neighbors over this sign that I’d have to just abandon my home and live on the streets lest I face the humiliation of being associated with their infantile attitudes and moronic approach to life.