Akaroa restaurant Bully Hayes, named after 19th Century rapist slaver, to change its name

A Canterbury restaurant will change its name after historians claimed it glorifies a slave trader who separated Pacific Islanders from their families and was an alleged rapist, murderer, paedophile and thief.

Bully Hayes Restaurant and Bar in Akaroa has come under increased scrutiny in recent days after Black Lives Matter protesters toppled a statue of fellow slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, UK.

Academics, led by Kiwi historian Scott Hamilton, have piled pressure on the restaurant to change its name in recent days.

On Monday, owner Wayne Jones said he wouldn't change the name - but now, after having "a chance to reflect", he's had a change of heart.

"The restaurant already had this name when we bought it 17 years ago," he told Newshub in a statement.

"Whilst we were originally a bit taken back by the interest in the name, we've now had a chance to reflect and we think that the time is right for a change.

"Times have changed and people all over the world are justifiably starting to question what they feel is the glorification of individuals with abusive histories."

Bully Hayes was a notorious US slaver who turned his attention to the Pacific Islands after the American Civil War ended the African slave trade in the 1800s.

Despite being portrayed favourably in pop culture - largely thanks to 1983's Savage Islands, a film about Hayes' life starring Tommy Lee Jones - he is remembered by historians as a brutal criminal known for his short fuse and cruel treatment of slaves and crew.

During his career as a slaver, Hayes was accused multiple times of rape against young Pacific Islanders - with one particularly violent case involving a girl as young as nine. He was also a known thief, and was alleged to have murdered a woman he impregnated.

Hamilton has posted a number of tweets about Hayes over the last 24 hours, in efforts to change public perception of him. 

"I was amazed that anyone imagined Hayes a romantic, even admirable figure," he wrote in one post. "Now would be a good time for the restaurant to rethink its moniker."

In another, he described Hayes as a "sadist and pedophile who preyed on the islands of the Pacific for years, from bases in Apia and the Marshall Islands".

"Hayes stole Islanders and sold them to the plantations of Tahiti, Fiji and Queensland," he wrote.

Jones says he's read Hamilton's posts, and has "come to the conclusion that he makes a really good point". He believes the debate around the name has presented "a really good opportunity" to find one that is more fitting for his business.

"We're inviting our customers and all residents of Akaroa and Christchurch to leave a suggestion for a new name in our suggestion box," Jones said.

Bully Hayes staff pose with their name suggestion box.
Bully Hayes staff pose with their name suggestion box. Photo credit: Supplied

Jones says changing the name and signage of the restaurant is an expensive process, especially as the COVID-19 closure has left the restaurant struggling financially.

"It may take us a while to get it all complete, but we'll do our best to get it done as soon as we can," he says.

"We value the support from our loyal customers but given the circumstances it is time to move on and bring something positive to the world in these trying times."