What’s in a name? Plenty, if you’re Pete Turner, owner of Illegal Pete's. Not so much, if you're Jim Nixon.
Nixon is the owner of Illegal Burger, a two-location (so far) chain that he founded in 2013 in Evergreen. That's where he already had a Mexican restaurant, a Senor Sol franchise, and when another space in the same complex became available at 29017 Hotel Way, he decided to open a burger joint there. And how did he come up with the name? "We did all our research, looking for a name, going more with 'Metro Burger,' 'Urban Burger.' Every name we googled came up taken. We must have gone through twenty names," Nixon remembers. And then one day, when he and his wife were listening to the news, he continues, "We were talking about illegal immigration, illegal marijuana. We looked up Illegal Burger."
The name was free, and it seemed like the right brand for the concept, with the slogan "Burgers This Good Gotta Be Illegal." So Nixon slapped the Illegal Burger name on the restaurant at 29017 Hotel Way in Evergreen, then on a second location at 15400 West 64th in Arvada. (He has another Senor Sol in Arvada, too.) And Illegal Burger is the name of the restaurant that Nixon hopes to open as early as next week at 1512 Larimer Street, in the former home of Cafe Colore.
And despite all the controversy over the Illegal Pete's name that broke out in Fort Collins last year (leading Turner to add an explanation of the name on the Illegal Pete's website), then erupted again in Tucson, where Turner opened an Illegal Pete's last week, Nixon hasn't heard a peep of complaint about the name. But then, he isn't serving Mexican food at Illegal Burger.
"It hasn't happened at all," he says. "We're just trying to own a business, and do the right thing.”
For the downtown Denver location, that means a more casual place, with a bar. "A lot of businesspeople don’t need fancy, fine dining," he says. "I feel it’s a great location. We're ready to roll."
Meanwhile, with the Tucson outpost of Illegal Pete's now open, Turner is turning his attention to getting his ninth spot up and running in Denver. The long-anticipated transformation of Mama’s Cafe, at 2001 East Colfax, into an Illegal Pete's is set to be completed this spring. And, yes, it’s right across the street from Pete’s Kitchen — but really, what's in a name?