The owner of the Illegal Pete’s, a Mexican restaurant chain, is being pressured to rename his business just three weeks before he’s set to open a new restaurant in Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado.
On Wednesday, Pete Turner faced about 30 community members who suggested that the name “Illegal Pete’s” carries a negative connotation — especially because it’s associated with Mexican food.
For his part, Turner says that the name has nothing to do with immigration status. He claims it’s a literary reference to a bar in a novel he read. The name “Pete” also refers, unsurprisingly, to his own name.
Some residents don’t see it that way.
“Since I know the context, and I have been labeled with [the word “illegal”], it makes a huge difference to me,” said Lucy Gonzalez, 25.
She also said that she believes the word “illegal” should be dropped entirely, not just in the context of Turner’s restaurant.
Immigration attorney Kim Medina, who also led the meeting, seems to agree. “Social context is hugely important,” she said. “We’ll never get to big issues, such as immigration reform, until we can solve these smaller issues of language.”
People who faced Turner recounted experiences of dealing with racial slurs. Others compared the name of his restaurant to the Confederate flag.
Some were willing to engage in subtle accusations against the restaurant owner. “In a room full of people of color, this is probably a little uncomfortable for you,” one woman said.
One resident suggested that the restaurant is “going to instill violence in our community.”
After the meeting was over, Medina asked Turner: “Can we open Pete’s Mexican Restaurant Nov. 13?”
Turner said he had a lot to consider before changing the name of his restaurant.
The Boulder-based restaurant chain was started in 1995. It has six locations in Boulder and Denver. The menu is predominantly Mexican food from San Francisco’s Mission District.[Image credit: Wikipedia]
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