FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The owner of Illegal Pete’s, the Mexican restaurant chain known for its large burritos, will not change the name of the restaurant despite pleas from some residents of Fort Collins, where the next restaurant will open.
“I will not change the name of our company,” Pete Turner wrote at the end of a letter on the company’s website that detailed the history of the name and the company’s 20 years of business practices.
“I believe that authenticity of belief is born and lives in action. Over the last twenty years we’ve built our brand more and more through responsibly sourcing the food we serve from community-based businesses, providing above average wages, tangible benefits, and support to our employees, and giving back to our communities.”
Last month, organizers met with Turner asking him to change the name because they feel the term “illegal” is a negative stereotype.
“Since I know the context, and I have been labeled with (the word illegal), it makes a huge difference to me,” Lucy Gonzalez said at the meeting with Turner, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
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.”
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 seventh Illegal Pete’s restaurant opens in Fort Collins’ Old Town on Nov. 13.