TAMPA — The yellow, white and blue sign of a double-headed gator on the body of Hindu god Ganesh has hung outside Nebraska Mini Mart for years. But after a recent deluge of online criticism, the Tampa eatery has pledged to take it down.
The Seminole Heights restaurant, located at 4815 N Nebraska Ave., received comments about its use of religious imagery on Instagram and Google Reviews at the beginning of December.
“This sign is offensive to Dharmic sentiments. Our faiths are not jokes,” wrote Instagram user @dharmicjustice on one of Nebraska Mini Mart’s photos.
“Please reconsider this design. It’s offensive towards Hindus. Our religion isn’t to be used as an aesthetic and morphed into something like this,” wrote Instagram user @shivkaath.
Bianca Burrows, a Tampa-based mixed media commercial artist who paints under the name BBArt, created the piece several years ago. Since then, the design has appeared on T-Shirts and stickers. She sent a comment to the Tampa Bay Times via email to explain her artwork.
“I wouldn’t purposely create something to offend anyone,” she wrote. “The double headed alligator is a symbol of the Seminole Heights district. The orange in its hand represents Florida, and the beer represents the craft beers the market sells. Tying in the Ganesh was meant to represent peace, balance, and mindfulness for their space and the community. I have responded privately to those who reached out to me personally and wanted to talk human to human. Again, I truly apologize to anyone that artwork has offended. When I created this piece the intention was quite the opposite.”
Nebraska Mini Mart declined an interview request. It addressed the controversy on Instagram Thursday.
“It was said to be offensive to the Hindu religion. For this, we understand, see that viewpoint and apologize. Mind you this was never our intent,” the post states.
According to the post, the business received 13 one-star Google reviews and “dozens of hateful comments” across their Instagram profile.
“Most of the reviews were fabricated expressing poor quality food and even intentional poisoning in which they had to spend time in the hospital,” the post said. “Those who know us as owners know that we embrace and love everyone regardless of creed, color or religion.”
“So receiving reviews like this that are completely fabricated is extremely hurtful in many ways,” the post continued. “Perhaps those who wrote the negative reviews or comments across our page/Google reviews would be willing to take them down as we have with the art piece.”
The post concludes: “Lastly, if all artists were asked to take down their pieces that some find offensive, wouldn’t that leave us in a boring, one-sided world….”