Opening up a new restaurant with a niche cuisine can never be easy.
But a French-Vietnamese restaurant that’s set to open in Keene, New Hampshire, in March is running into a problem that could be unique.
The business has sold T-shirts and put up a sign in the window with the new restaurant’s name, according to the New York Post, but City Manager Elizabeth Dragon had concerns over the name being “intended to sound like profanity.”
Can you guess why?
— Route101 Local Goods (@Route101Goods) December 27, 2018
Dragon also said the restaurant didn’t have permission to put the sign in the window advertising its name “Pho Keene Great.”
The restaurant is located next to City Hall.
In addition, the Keene Sentinel Source reported that the business site is on lease from the city. The lease is stricter in regards to signs than city ordinances are.
Permission is required, according to the terms of the lease, before signs can be put up. Dragon told the Sentinel Source that “… it was intentionally written that way because it’s a publicly owned building, and we do have to be concerned about anything that could be interpreted by the public as offensive or use of profanity.”
A restaurant called ‘Pho Keene Great’ is taking down its sign. @CitymgrKeeneNH said the name is intended to sound like profanity.
— Galen Ettlin WCAX (@GalenEttlin) January 4, 2019
This created a problem for the business. Owner Isabelle Jolie took the sign out of the window.
The business name focused on a food to be served at the eatery: Vietnames soup called “pho” (pronounced “fuh”).
The restaurant decided to take a poll, to find out if other people were OK with the play on words or if anyone else found it offensive. The poll results were overwhelmingly in favor of the name.
Dragon told the Sentinel Source that she wanted good things for the business.
“We really do want them to be successful. I’m personally looking forward to frequenting her restaurant, but I do want to have a conversation with her about the sign and make sure that we are all comfortable moving forward,” she said.
“Pho Keene Great, which is not scheduled to open until Mar. 1, had already displayed a small sign featuring its name, which is a play on both Vietnamese dish pho and the name of the town.”
— Amit Paranjape (@aparanjape) January 5, 2019
Jolie, who is of Vietnamese descent, told them, “It is a wordplay on Vietnamese vernacular and there were not intentions of creating harm or to offend anyone. It was intended to be fun and lighthearted.”
She added that she is not going down without a fight.
“It is discriminatory to say that a Vietnamese word, a popular food item combined with the name of our city is considered offensive. If the city denies us a permit now due to our business name, which they have known since lease signing, that is a major issue since we have spent a lot of money.”
The business is still scheduled to open as planned on March 1. A meeting with the city manager and her team will determine if the restaurant’s sign can be displayed again.
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