Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Philly papers declare jihad on Joey Vento and Geno's

Nation: He has the politically correct multicults up in arms over his sign.

Philly Daily News editorial: Whether Vento likes it or not, Geno's (along with Pat's) is a tourist destination. Both are listed in nearly every guide of Philadelphia, and are often the first stop for many making their inaugural trip to Philly. That sign is not the image we want to convey to the world. As to those who have immigrated to America, Vento ought to show a little more class as they struggle to learn the language. But ultimately Vento has a right to his boorish ways. The city Commission on Human Relations has drawn up an official discrimination complaint against Geno's, which can carry a $300 fine. Vento promises to fight the complaint and he should. The commission is alleging that Vento is discriminating on the basis of national origin or ancestry with his sign. But until an actual person is refused service at Geno's because of a language problem, it's hard to see where free speech ends and discrimination starts. So the government shouldn't interfere with Vento's right to run his business or his mouth off. At the same time, no one should lift a hand to help him. Banish Geno's from the visitor's guides and tourism promotions. He clearly doesn't want the business."
Jill Porter(Daily News) "Clearly, Vento has become a spokesman for the swath of Americans who are frustrated by the perceived dilution of American language and culture by Spanish-speaking immigrants who fail to learn English. "It's not a cheesesteak or a Philadelphia story," said Meryl Levitz, head of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. "It touched a national nerve. People have multidimensional issues with this which has all been crystallized with one man and one cheesesteak." The controversy may even help the city's tourism industry. Some sympathetic out-of-towners who share Vento's frustration contacted Levitz to say they planned to come to Philadelphia just to order a cheesesteak at Geno's - in English."
Andrew Cassel(Philadelphia Inquirer) "From a business point of view, of course, Vento's sign is about as dumb as it gets. With Latinos the fastest-growing group in the city, and Mexicans in particular constituting an increasing share of the customer base, to offensively refuse to serve Spanish-speakers seems almost suicidal. At the same time, making a federal (or at least a city) case out of Geno's is almost as foolish. Not only will it arouse far more nativist intolerance and do far more damage to Philadelphia's reputation than Vento's original sign ever could, but it also sticks the city into areas where it can't possibly do much good for anyone. Today Geno's, tomorrow - what? Chinatown restaurants where the specials are hand-written in Mandarin? Northeast delis where the staff speaks only Russian? How about hip clubs that bar unattractive people? Will the city crack down on them, too? Let's hope not. Much better to see the sign in Geno's for what it is: a terrific marketing opportunity for Pat's, his competitor across the street."
Just an aside, Cassell is lying like a dog, Geno's won't refuse anyone service who doesn't speak English and will help you get your food. Hope the new owners of the papers take a long hard look at the quality of writing that Cassell is doing at this time. Also the letter pages are going great. As for business at Geno's? Its going great.
Business is brisk at Geno's Steaks. Supporters and the curious are flocking like pilgrims to see signs at the cheesesteak emporium that read: "This is AMERICA ... WHEN ORDERING, 'SPEAK ENGLISH.' " The small, laminated placards, tucked unobtrusively near the takeout window, have ignited a nationwide firestorm of debate about English, immigration and free speech. And, neighborhood gossip has it, they have done a better job at attracting customers than the store's Las Vegas-style neon lights ever did. "A little sign like that?" exclaimed Penny Constantino, a South Philadelphian who saw the controversial signs for the first time while in line for lunch yesterday. "I'll buy you a poster," she told Geno Vento, whose family owns the store at Ninth and Passyunk. "Why don't you make [the sign] bigger?"

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