The Colorado fast-food chain known as Illegal Pete’s will be keeping its name.
Activists had urged the owner, Pete Turner, to change the burrito restaurant’s name. They met with him during a community meeting in October and told him that using the word “illegal” in the name of a Mexican restaurant is racist, given the connotation to immigrants. After meeting with activists, Turner said he’d think about changing the name ahead of opening its seventh location in Fort Collins.
But in a lengthy statement largely focusing on his brand’s history, as well as the contributions he’s made as an employer, Turner explained why he chose to keep the name:
The word “illegal” means many things, in this statement, I have outlined what it means to me. So, I will not change the name of our company. We welcome you, and all humans, to visit our restaurant; to get to know us, and to form your own opinion, and hopefully create a meaningful relationship with Illegal Pete’s and other humans while in an atmosphere that celebrates individuality and relaxed human connection.
That invitation to make a human connection, however, is unlikely to take place with local residents who are denouncing Turner’s decision. We Are Not Illegal, a group of community members, students and professors, issued its own statement, which highlights the name’s negative impact:
The group has stressed, and continues to stress, that regardless of the intention of Pete Turner’s decision to name the restaurant initially, the impact is painful and offensive. Turner maintains that he engages in fair practices with his employees, and cares deeply about the betterment of the community, but he has chosen to name his restaurant in such a way that he is aligning he himself with anti-immigrant activists such as John Tanton who use the word “illegal” to hurt and oppress others.
Illegal Pete’s is set to open its new location Thursday.