A group of Colorado residents are in an uproar over the upcoming launch of a burrito restaurant named Illegal Pete’s, out of concern the name will offend and stigmatize illegal immigrants.
The Boulder-based Mexican restaurant, owned by Pete Turner, has six locations in Boulder and Denver. A seventh location is set to open in Old Town Fort Collins in three weeks, causing controversy among residents who demand he change the name from “illegal” or face a wave of protests, The Coloradoan reported.
Mr. Turner said the restaurant is simply named after himself, with a reference to a bar in a novel he read as an English major in Boulder. He headed to Fort Collins on Wednesday to hold a meeting and plead his case with a crowd of about 30 concerned residents.
The community members explained the negative context of the word illegal, or the “I-word,” as some referred to it, The Coloradoan reported.
“Social context is hugely important,” said Fort Collins immigration attorney and meeting moderator Kim Medina. “We’ll never get to big issues, such as immigration reform, until we can solve these smaller issues of language.”
The Coloradoan reported that the audience discussion included emotional past experiences with racial slurs and at times turned hostile toward Mr. Turner.
“In a room full of people of color, this is probably a little uncomfortable for you,” one woman reportedly said.
Another audience member likened the name to the N-word or calling a restaurant “Smoking Lynching BBQ,” The Coloradoan reported.
“This is a place that’s going to instill violence in our community,” said Colorado State University assistant English professor Antero Garcia.
Mr. Turner reiterated his commitment to owning an “inclusive” business and had representatives pass around an information sheet with the company’s charitable contributions and fundraisers.
“This is all very near and dear to me,” Mr. Turner said. “I’ve helped pay for citizenship for some of my employees.”
Ms. Medina concluded the meeting by asking Mr. Turner: “Can we open Pete’s Mexican Restaurant Nov. 13?”
The restaurant owner said he had a lot to consider in changing the name of the restaurant.
In the meantime, Ms. Medina said, “we can be mobilizing ourselves either to celebrate or to protest.”