POULSBO, Wash. -- A Poulsbo bar sign with the image of Charles Manson’s face is accused of being racist and in bad taste.
The Helter Skelter Lounge is named after owner Joe Boyle’s favorite Beatles song.
“Charles Manson is what made it iconic, so I went for it,” said Boyle.
A cult leader, Manson is credited with orchestrating nine murders in 1969. In a city known for its Norwegian roots, some fear the sign will change Poulsbo’s image.
“Death, Hitler, the murders that went down, it’ll be negative,” said Matthew Anderson, a resident.
While the sign has been up for nearly two years, the issue only recently exploded on social media.
“It’s going to draw attention to the Charles Manson way of life,” said Mark Beausoler, a resident.
Some comments include: “The name is as appealing as “The Jeffrey Dahmer Café,” and “Businesses will stay away if they think the town is full of neo-Nazis and everyone has white hoods in their closet.”
“I’m not trying to be offensive or anything. It’s just imagery,” said Boyle.
But other comments support Boyle’s bar, including one that states: “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. The owner has the same right to a sign as you do with your eyes.”
While the city has received complaints, Mayor Becky Erickson tells KING 5 the sign can stay up because it’s considered free speech, even though others call it hate speech.
“We can’t do much about it except give our opinion, just as much as he can give his opinion,” said Beausoler.
According to Boyle, comments against his sign are hypocritical considering Poulsbo’s prominent Viking statue.
“Vikings were horrible. They corrupted, raped and pillaged. What they did and what Manson did is not supported by any of us in this town I don’t think,” said Boyle.
Since the talk of the sign has spread in the community, Boyle says business has actually increased.
“I’m not one to shy away from controversy and I think all successful places have some sort of controversy,” he said.