Pete Turner founded Illegal Pete's
in Boulder twenty years ago, when he opened his first burrito joint on the Hill. Yesterday afternoon, he opened his first out-of-state restaurant in Tucson
— which attracted a packed house of customers and an estimated fifty protesters with a petition
demanding he change the name, claiming that "Illegal Pete's" is racist. Turner told an Arizona reporter that he'd consider it
, but that "the name means a ton to me." And the chain's fans in Colorado stand by Turner...and his burritos. Says Chris:
The burritos are so good, they should be illegal.
I can't imagine meeting a person that finds the name "Illegal Pete" offensive. They would have to be offended by everything.
Then there's this from Zack:
As a former Illegal Pete's employee and Tucson resident, I feel like I bring a unique perspective to this unfortunate situation. When I first heard that Illegal Pete’s was opening its first location in Tucson, literally blocks from the house I grew up in, I was thrilled. For everyone that is not in the know, Illegal Pete’s has been an icon in Colorado for twenty years. Pete’s is not only celebrated for its quality food, but because Pete embodies everything that is great about independent restaurants. Amazing food, amazing music, most importantly a dedication to its community. After twenty years, people will still wait in line for an hour because they know Pete does everything right. He, unlike most restaurants, treats his employees like they are family. Given that most of his staff are college students, he was more than flexible in allowing us to concentrate on our studies and was more than generous in providing food (not a cheap commodity for most students). I for one was treated to a lavish sushi dinner when I graduated because he was proud that we took our school and our jobs seriously. For his non-student employees, who are of every race, they have worked for him for decades because he treats them not as cooks or dishwashers, but as valued leaders.
It should also be noted that 20,000 people attended his 20th anniversary concert in Colorado. Would this have happened if he was a racist? What existing Tucson restaurant would have 20,000 show up in appreciation?
I love Tucson because the term “local” has real meaning and we love our fabled establishments. This is the first time I’ve been ashamed. Before you accuse someone of insensitivity or racism, please do your research. If you want to continue to embrace the monster fast food chains of the world, go ahead. But I’m telling you right now, you should be grateful Illegal Pete’s is finally here. Our taste buds, and more importantly our community, will be better off in the long run.
Do you frequent one of the eight Illegal Pete's in Colorado? What do you think of the chain? Of the protests in Tucson?