Philadelphia: Geno's English only policy (again)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 13 13:30:58 UTC 2006


Does Geno's English-Only Policy Targets Mexicans?

POSTED: 5:01 pm EDT June 12, 2006


The controversial 'English Only' sign at Geno's Steaks in South
Philadelphia is the talk of the town. But now, local merchants and
customers are sounding off. Geno's owner Joseph Vento posted the sign
during the recent immigration debate, asking customers to order in
English. But he says no one has ever been denied service. The Philadelphia
Human Relations Commission continues to meet behind closed doors to decide
if Geno's is violating policies and if it will file a formal complaint
against Vento. On Monday at Geno's, "God Bless America" blared over the
sound system as NBC 10 spoke with customers. But down the same block, some
merchants interviewed by NBC 10 didn't feel welcomed.

At a Mexican restaurant, La Lupe, merchant Gabriel Bravo said that
"America is a country of immigrants. Here, we have customers from all over
the world." Bravo opened his caf four years ago. He said he hasn't had a
problem until now. Then his neighbor, Joe Vento, posted a sign at Geno's
reportedly said his message is meant for Mexican immigrants. "I will not
put something like this on my windows," Bravo said. "I think all our
customers have to be served the same way."

Counters Vento: "Anybody who is here who is a proud American has to learn
the English language. That's what that sign says. You don't want to speak
English, you don't want to be a proud American. Get out of the country
then." Vento now says he's received national and local support since his
sign gained national attention. "No way is it coming down," Vento said.
Vento said he posted the sign about six months ago because of concerns
over the debate on immigration reform and the increasing number of people
from the area would could not order in English. The traditionally Italian
community has become more diverse over the decades, with a growing number
of immigrants from Asia and Latin America moving in.

If the city serves a discrimination complaint, Vento will get a chance to
file a response. Then the matter could end up in court. "Let them do what
they want to,'' Vento said. "When it comes, then we'll deal with it.''

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