Colorado Community Protests Illegal Pete's Restaurant

By Darryl Hannah

It wasn’t too long ago that Latino residents in Fort Collins, Colo., were deemed “illegal” and barred from certain restaurants that bore the signs “No Dogs and Mexicans.” That’s why many in the community are urging restaurateur Pete Turner to change the name of his restaurant chain Illegal Pete’s.

“Using the word illegal when you are referring to a human being is offensive,” Cheryl Distaso of the Fort Collins Community Action Network told reporters. She and others involved in the campaign have likened the restaurant’s name to a racial slur used to describe African-Americans. “Messages range from heartfelt personal stories about what it was like growing up in Fort Collins with ‘No Dogs and Mexicans’ signs in the downtown area, in the very same place the restaurant is going to be built,” she said.

The Boulder-based chain, with six locations across Colorado, serves food popularized in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s set to open a new location in Fort Collins in two weeks. And despite the complaints, Turner maintains that the restaurant’s name is a literary reference to a bar in a novel he read as an English major at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Pete is also his and his father’s name.

Illegal Pete’s “was just the name of an establishment in a novel I read. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a cool name,'” Turner told The Coloradoan. “The name was meant to be mysterious and provoke people to look into it further. But some just stopped at ‘illegal’ and assumed something.”

Context is crucial, says local immigration attorney Kim Medina, who moderated a recent community meeting between the Fort Collins Community Action Network and Turner.

“Social context is hugely important [and] we’ll never get to big issues, such as immigration reform, until we can solve these smaller issues of language,” said Medina, who said her office has received hate calls about its involvement in the campaign. “In Fort Collins there is a long history of racial discrimination. In the downtown area not too long ago, there were signs that said ‘Whites only, no dogs or Mexicans.'”

Turner does say he understands the feelings and emotions around the restaurant’s name but adds that the community has known his restaurant was opening for more than a year. He also says his company takes strong social responsibility, which includes programs for children and families in underprivileged communities, funding to local arts and music communities, and a scholarship for a student from Mexico.

“I understand when people say, ‘Hey, look, I was born and raised in America but because of the color of my skin, people tell me to go back to Mexico,'” Turner said. “I get that, and it was a good education opportunity for my team.”

While there was no protesting of his restaurants yet, the Fort Collins Community Action Network maintains that the issue is far from resolved. According to Turner, the recent meeting ended with “[Medina] saying, ‘Let us know whether we should be there to protest or celebrate on Nov. 13.'”

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…