Monday, June 12, 2006

Youz Want Dat Whiz Wit?

Last week a story hit the local Philadelphia news and quickly went national. Owner Joe Vento of Geno's Steaks in South Philly put a sign up at the order window saying, "This is America. When ordering speak English."

Now if you're not from Philly you're probably asking yourself, "So what?" If some street food vendor wants to put a sign up making himself look like a bigot, what's the big deal? The big deal is that Geno's is a Philadelphia icon. Every tourist that comes to Philly has four things on their to do list.
  1. See Independence Hall
  2. See Liberty Bell
  3. Run up the steps of the Art Museum, raise you hands in the air like Rocky and yell, 'Yo Adrianne!'
  4. Get a real Philly cheesesteak from Geno's Steaks

On a side note it's ironic Geno's would be requiring customers to speak English considering nobody in South Philly speaks the language well. Ordering a cheesesteak at Geno's goes something like this:

"Can I get a cheesesteak please?"



"Youz want dat wit?"


To explain, you just ordered a cheesesteak with provolone (not cheez whiz) and fried onions (just 'wit' for short).

When the story ran on the local news, local talk radio picked it up and everyone quickly chose sides. Many people support Joe's decision to put up the sign and say it's about time someone said something. Not surprisingly, the Libs and illegal immigrant crowd came down against Geno. Many people who sympathize with the illegal immigrants are rational about the situation. The Day Without an Immigrant Coalition is simply saying they will take their business across the street to Pat's, Geno's rival. This is the correct attitude to have. If you don't like Joe's way of doing business, don't do business at Geno's. But other groups are going too far in their outrage.

Juntos, a local Hispanic neighborhood organization began setting up a protest by sending people to Geno's to order in Spanish. They may pursue court action if refused service. They equate this sign to the days of segregation when blacks couldn't sit at the counter and had to ride the back of the bus. This is taking things a bit too far.

But the thing that really bothers me is now the city is thinking of getting involved. City Councilman Jim Kenney has asked Geno's to take the sign down. He says Geno's is "an iconic institution and business, one that is that visible for many of our residents, for the region and the world." The problem is Geno's doesn't belong to the city. It belongs to Joe Vento.

I support Joe's right to hang the sign. It's his establishment. He's trying to make a point and our Constitution gives him the right to speak his mind. I also support anyone's right to call Joe a bigot and refuse to do business at Geno's. That includes the city if they choose to no longer promote Geno's as a Philadelphia tourist attraction as they have been doing for decades. That is their right and that's what free markets are all about. But if the city tries to do anything to put Joe out of business, like pulling permits or trying to inspect him out of business, I'll be extremely upset and disappointed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any news on this? Has the city gotten clever? Have court cases proceeded or been thrown out?

3:15 AM  

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