Pete Turner in the Illegal Pete's on East Colfax Avenue.
Pete Turner in the Illegal Pete's on East Colfax Avenue.
Mark Antonation

Reader: Is Everyone Offended These Days?

Illegal Pete's will turn 25 next year, after opening its first outlet in Boulder in 1995. Today it has nine stores in Colorado and two in Arizona, with plans for more growth...but an attempt to reincorporate in anticipation of that growth hit a roadblock. Illegal Pete's is suing the Delaware Secretary of State after corporate filings were rejected last fall on the grounds that the company's name allegedly has "offensive connotations."

Not true, says founder Pete Turner. He named his first restaurant as an homage to his father, Pete Turner Sr., a "good, old-fashioned hell-raiser" who had terminal cancer when he helped his son start the company and passed away in 1997. "The name had no racial connotations then, and it has no connotations now," the company says in a release explaining the lawsuit. "In our current political times, divided and filled with racial tension, our name has been unwittingly rolled into a larger conversation about race, the United States, who belongs here and if a human being should ever be referred to as 'illegal.'"

When we reported on the Illegal Pete's case, readers definitely made that conversation larger. Says Owen: 

Fuck government, mind your own business.

Notes Joe: 

In my hometown of Baton Rouge there is a popular eatery called Izzo’s Illegal Burrito. Nobody has ever raised a fuss in two decades over it.

Adds Amber: 

Maybe if it was a more Spanish name? If ya wanna split hairs? But Jesus, is everyone offended these days????????????

But Alex replies: 

Giant eye roll. Just change the stupid name, you privileged boo hoo ass hat.

Says Melissa: 

If you read the history behind the name, you will actually understand the meaning behind it.

Responds Katie: 

I read it. It’s a Mexican restaurant. i still think it’s sounds racist, even if he has a big long explanation on why he thinks it isn’t. If you need to repeatedly define that your racist-sounding Mexican restaurant isn’t racist, maybe you’re in the wrong with the original name. i like the food and am not calling the owner racist, but the name is racist in my opinion.

Concludes Miguel: 

Colorado, where a guy named Pete can't call himself Illegal Pete and a guy who loves God has to fight to not make a gay couple a cake. Folks can't decide if everything has gone too far or if everything makes them sad. BTW Illegal Pete's has the bombest quesadillas ever!!

Delaware offered Turner the option of incorporating as "IP LLC, doing business as Illegal Pete's," but instead decided to file a lawsuit protest "in exactly the spirit behind the name, sticking up for the First Amendment, against the arbitrary use of power."

Turner's done it before. After nineteen years in business without a complaint about the rabble-rousing name, controversy erupted when he looked at expanding to Tucson back in 2014. "I did a lot of soul-searching," he recalls. He talked to his employees, including two "key dudes" on the team who were immigrants; he attended a public forum in Fort Collins, when Illegal Pete's opened its first spot in that city in the midst of the furor.

"Through all of this, I've come to the conclusion: If people choose to take it that way, that's kind of on them," Turner says. "At this point, it's very clear."

Is the case clear to you? Post a comment or email your thoughts to cafe@westword.com.

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