Arizona Latino Group Protests Name of 'Illegal Pete's' Restaurant Chain

by Daniela Franco /  / Updated 
A man walks past an Illegal Pete's restaurant, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.
A man walks past an Illegal Pete's restaurant, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.Brennan Linsley / AP

Mexican restaurant chain "Illegal Pete's" is under fire yet again for its controversial name, this time the protest is coming from the University of Arizona’s Chicano student organization M.E.Ch.A.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the group sent a petition to Pete Turner, founder of the Colorado chain, to change the name, saying that it's offensive to Hispanics. Their petition is less than 100 supporters away from reaching their 1,500 signature goal.

“To you, “illegal” is a playful and meaningless descriptor that gives your restaurant a memorable name; it creates a “clever” brand,” the petition reads, “We are here to tell you that no longer will you be able to claim blissful ignorance and profit from racism.”

The Arizona Daily Star reported Turner sent an e-mail saying he was away in Colorado training the staff for the new restaurant and not available for comment.

When the restaurant chain opened a location in Fort Collins, CO, in late 2014, residents also petitioned for a name change, saying that the word “illegal” describes undocumented immigrants in an offensive way.

"Illegal Pete’s" will open in mid-December in the middle of the campus.

On the restaurant chain’s website, there is a dedicated section, written by Turner, explaining the meaning of the name. He said he named it from a bar in a novel.

“Just as the word “illegal” has different definitions and meanings, so too does “Illegal Pete’s” have many different iterations in its branding,” he wrote, “Illegal Pete’s didn’t really imply anything to me. It could be a bar, a book store, restaurant, or a head shop – it could be anything really, and that was the point.”

The student group stated it won't back down from challenging Turner: "This letter is only the beginning. You have heard this argument before and have willfully dismissed it - we are here to tell you that you will no longer be able to continue under this hateful name."

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