Friday, June 09, 2006

Eatery's English-only Sign Raises Ire

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A sign in a landmark Philadelphia restaurant asking customers to order in English is sparking controversy in the metropolis known as the "City of Brotherly Love."

The owner of Geno's Steaks said on Thursday that the sign, "This is America - when ordering speak English," is intended to encourage immigrants to learn the language and assimilate into U.S. society, but one Latino activist said it's racist.

The controversy comes amid a national debate over immigration in the United States. The U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill last month that includes a provision which would make English the national language.

"They should be glad that I put the sign up. I'm trying to help them to speak English," said Joey Vento, 66, whose grandparents moved to the United States from Italy. "Without the English language, they are going to have a lot of problems in this country.

"There is nobody who can say they are turned down because of the language," he added. "They can point if they want to."

The sign, which Vento posted at his cheese steak restaurant about six months ago and says he has no intention of removing, has made some people angry.

Roberto Santiago, executive director of Philadelphia's Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations, said he was "appalled" by the policy.

"I think what's coming out of his mouth is racist," said Santiago. "He is saying, 'I don't like these brown faces in my community and I will do everything I can to get them out of there.'"

Santiago said he has urged Latinos to boycott Geno's Steaks, a fixture in South Philadelphia's Little Italy neighborhood which has seen an influx of Hispanic immigrants in recent years.

Vento denied that anyone would be refused service if they ordered one of the sliced beef-and-cheese sandwiches, a famed bit of cuisine in the Quaker-founded "City of Brotherly Love," in a language other than English.

Tony Luke, co-owner of competitor Tony Luke's restaurant, said Vento has taken "too much of a hard line" with non-English-speaking customers.

"You can't be expected to learn English in a week," he said. "We will be a lot more tolerant than that."

5 comments:

martha's mom said...

This is pure nonsense. How can it be racist if for example, the proprietor doesn't understand what these people are saying when they order? These folks better get their act together and learn the English language or they will find many more establishments not willing to cater to them. From my perspective that's exactly as it should be.

puttzle said...

Those illegal immigrant sympathizers always have some way to spin it.

Anonymous said...

How come all these so called activists kept their mouths shut when they were in Mexico?

puttzle said...

Because they only speak English?

martha's mom said...

Says who anonymous? You, my dear are obviously so timid that you prefer to remain anonymous. And, what is your opinion on this matter?

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