BRUSSELS — The Coke bottles are out of the refrigerator. The bags of Lay's potato chips are off the shelves. And a Belgian bar’s boycott of U.S. products is ready to start following the owners’ anger and concern with President Trump’s attitude toward the world.
Trump may be threatening to build protectionist trade barriers, but the first economic broadside of the Trump era may belong to Cafe ZeeZicht, a cozy, wood-paneled bar in Antwerp where potted plants jumble the window and Coca-Cola is the most popular soft drink on tap. The owners say that they could not stand by as Trump stoked fear in the hearts of Americans.
“The language Mr. Trump speaks is the language of economics, so in that language we want to reply,” said David Joris, one of the bar’s owners. “So that’s why we are not selling American products at the moment.” The boycott begins Friday.
Coke has been substituted by a Belgian-made cola. Lay’s chips have been replaced by Belgian-made Croky chips. Nothing can replace Jack Daniel’s, Joris said, but bargoers will just have to do without.
“We don’t have anything against Americans, or America or American products,” Joris said. “On the contrary. I like to drink Coca-Cola in the summers. I like Bob Dylan. I like working on Apple computers. It’s just our statement. It’s our way of reacting.”
“One day you get up and say it has to stop,” he said. “It’s unbelievable what's going on now. The fear they’re putting in the minds of people, fear of other people, fear of Muslims, fear of Mexicans, it all has to do with fear.”
Joris said that his patrons are supportive of the move. It’s not the first time the bar has waded into the world of international trade, Joris said. For a while, they also boycotted French products after French underwater nuclear tests. And the bar doesn’t serve products from the brewing conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, in protest of layoffs at several Belgium-based breweries owned by the company.
But the U.S. boycott may be the most ambitious yet, a faint echo of George W. Bush-era “freedom fries,” when a wave of anti-European sentiment washed over right-leaning restaurants in the United States after France and Germany opposed the war in Iraq.
Joris said that the owners haven’t decided how long the boycott will last, but that a clear condemnation of Trump’s policies from the companies would put it to a halt. Already, Starbucks has signaled its disapproval by saying that it plans to hire 10,000 refugees in the coming years.
“The actions Trump takes are very, very extreme,” Joris said. "That’s also a surprise.”
Annabell Van den Berghe contributed to this report.