A different view from Sarah Burke, former arts writer and editor of the East Bay Express:
The most common answer relies on the logic that because Tiki Bars don’t feign authenticity, they don’t count as cultural appropriation. In his essay, “The Cultures of Tiki,” anthropology professor Scott Lukas cites tiki guides and interviews with tiki aficionados to conclude that tiki culture is a playful theater of inauthenticity in which the set pieces and performances are cultural samples being remixed into something mythical. Those invested in tiki culture are in it for a kitschy cultural fantasy — an imagined lifestyle associated with Jimmy Buffett and piña coladas garnished with tiny umbrellas. And, as Lukas argues, in the same vein as goth and punk, the tiki aesthetic challenges classist notions of “high” and “low” brow culture by celebrating something traditionally garish and distasteful. “The whole point of tiki, as I heard time and time again in many field observations,” he writes, “is to eschew the serious and the conventional and to delight in the campy and the controversial."
But such a dismissal of the obvious appropriative roots of tiki culture requires a willful historical amnesia (the kind on which much of American identity is built). Such logic traces tiki bars only back to Don’s Beachcomber — the first ever tiki bar, opened in Los Angeles in 1933 — and glosses over the Polynesian origins of the imagery. That murkiness is key for constructing the tiki style, rendering the entire South Pacific a platter of stereotypes and aesthetic tropes to choose from.