FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A group of Fort Collins residents attended a meeting Wednesday night and asked Pete Turner to change the name of his restaurant, Illegal Pete’s, which is scheduled to open in the city’s Old Town in three weeks.
Illegal Pete’s has six locations in Boulder and Denver and serves Mexican food, including its huge burritos, modeled from food in the Mission District in San Francisco.
The name Illegal Pete’s is a literary reference to a bar in a novel he read as an English major in Boulder, Turner said. Pete refers to his and his father’s name . After starting the restaurant in 1995, Turner hoped the name would be ambiguous enough to spark interest but also referring to counterculture activity, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported.
But the residents told Turner about the negative context of the word “illegal.”
“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, according to the Coloradoan.
The newspaper said others at the meeting likened the name to a racial slur directed at African-Americans, hanging a Confederate flag in the restaurant’s window or calling a restaurant “Smoking Lynching BBQ.”
A general manager at the Illegal Pete’s in Boulder said he doesn’t think it’s a problem.
“I’m Hispanic, and I’m very proud to be,” said Milton Guevara, who was born in El Salvador. “People come to us because they love our food … The name doesn’t mean anything.”