‘Speak English’ sign at Philly cheesesteak joint ruled legal – USA Today

A victory for free speech, but a defeat for common decency and morality.

Speak English’ sign at Philly cheesesteak joint ruled legal – USA Today

If you ever find yourself at Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia (as We often did many years ago), you might be in for a political fight if you order a carne asada con queso or le bifteck avec fromage.

Vento showing the same welcome to Hispanics as Americans of the past showed Italians wins a victory for his “you’re not welcome” sign. Obviously a person who cannot speak English cannot read his sign. In a radio interview with Joe Bednarsky Vento claims his sign will ‘help’ people because it promotes English. That’s definitely a strange assertion. What I believe the sign does is tells people that the U.S. is intolerant of diversity.

Vento, according to this story, is a millionaire so he obviously knows business and marketing. From his more than flamboyant neon lights to his “speak English” signs Vento is not ashamed to ‘stand out’ when it means more business. Strangely in the world he advocates people would look at him, an American of Italian descent with tattoos covering most of his arms, and think he was a street thug. This coupled with the terrible treatment of his ancestors make for a strange story. Rather than advocating for better treatment of migrants Vento attempts to make them feel unwelcome.

I live in New York and here there are signs all over in various languages. Nobody seems to mind. Walking home recently I passed by a new advertisement in Polish. Although they don’t get as much attention there are programs for people from all over the world to help them learn English. And contrary to Joey’s thoughts many recent “legal” immigrants cannot speak English or can’t well enough to read his sign. What would make me happy is to see Joey use some of his million dollars to help recent migrants learn English. But sadly, that won’t sell cheesesteaks at his restaurant which is known for its hostile treatment of customers.

In the article Vento says he “became a hero.” Yes, to white supremacists groups and prejudiced people everywhere, he certainly did.

“They made me famous throughout the world,” Vento said from his home in New Jersey. “I’m way ahead of the game. I became a hero. I’ve got to thank them for that.”

Here’s some of the gems from Joey’s Harrisburg speech where he made sure all Hispanic people felt welcome in the U.S.:

Here we are. We’re a country that owes the children – we’ve got to worry about our children. He we are – they’re killing like 25 of us a day which we already know. They’re molesting about 8 children a day. That’s two reasons alone why we can get them out of here. There is no such word as “can’t” – no not in the American language. Don’t say you can’t do it. We are the greatest country in the world we can do anything we want.

And as far as the anchor babies – you come here pop a baby, pick it up and take it back to Mexico.

These people came here with the criminal intent knowing that if they pop this baby out that they’re going to get all the benefits and we won’t take mommy and daddy away from the kids. Fine. Take the baby and go back to Mexico.
So the Spanish people I say to you, you want to be prosperous – ’cause I called you morons and I’m going to tell you why (audience laughing). As long as you’ve got Spanish in the school you’ll never ever succeed in the United States of America. A complete success. Because the only true success in America is you must speak English.

Full speech can be found here.

There’s only one person who owns a restaurant that’s worse than Vento and that’s Bill Balsamico.


10 thoughts on “‘Speak English’ sign at Philly cheesesteak joint ruled legal – USA Today”

  1. I did not like the comment about tattoos covering most of his (Joey’s) arms, I know many fine people that have tattoos covering their arms like myself, but that does not make them or me for that matter a bad person or a street thug? No, if fact I personally know many Christian Bikers that have ton of tattoo’s and they are the nicest people you could ever meet.

    On March 28, 2008 at 10 am EST Live, we will be interviewing Nick Taliaferro, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations in regards to the city agency dismissing the discrimination complaint against Joey Vento the owner of Geno’s Steaks and his “This Is America, Please Speak English When Ordering” sign. At the time we had Joey Vento on Nick Taliaferro was not able to comment due to the case was still pending, but now that there has been a ruling he is ready to comment.


  2. Joe,

    I didn’t mean to offend and I apologize. It wasn’t meant to be offensive or to say there’s anything wrong with tattoos – there’s definitely not. Tattoos are a beautiful art form.

    What I was trying to say is that Joey Vento is promoting the same stereotyping of undocumented migrants that people often do against those with tattoos. I’d imagine he wouldn’t want people judging him because he has tattoos so why does he judge others because they’re Hispanic and/or are undocumented migrants?

  3. I applaud the steak house for only serving those who speak english. If an individual is trying to speak english when ordering, then serve them. If they speak another language just because they want to then they go hungry. They know what they are doing, and it stinks.

  4. Asus,

    Joey states he has never refused to serve anyone. However, it’s strange to see you advocate the refusal of service.

    I doubt they’ll go hungry if they don’t eat at Geno’s Steaks. Many would consider this a luxury and having money to buy from Joey would indicate this person could afford to eat elsewhere.

    Why do you enjoy the idea of people going hungry and being refused.

  5. It’s like the Jim Crow era. It is kind of funny because this guy looks like he is second or thrid generation of immigrants, so would he refuse his grandma and grandpa a cheeseburger? Pretty sick if you ask me.

  6. Personally, if I were an immigrant and saw the sign in the steak house, I would be disgusted. It is incredibly demeaning to be refused service, just because you cannot speak English. I mean, how can anybody expect you to know English if you haven’t been in the country for more than a few months? However, while in some ways I see how wrong the sign is, I also see some ways that the sign could be telling the truth. One huge issue of immigration is that when people immigrate, they form communities with other people from their countries. Though it is helpful for them to stick with people they know, it can also hurt them by preventing them from assimilating.
    In staying with people from their own country many of their old traditions are continued to be carried out. One of these traditions is language, which they all speak at home and in the neighborhood, essentially making English unnecessary in their communities. This is where the problems arise. When these people go outside of their niches, they can’t communicate with anybody nor read anything. This makes finding jobs very difficult and even harder to find high paying jobs. Though it is nice to hold on to your customs it severely cripples your chances of moving up in the social ladder.
    This is very similar to the situations of the Irish during the 1900’s. Many people despised the Irish because of their foreign customs and religion, even to the point that they would put signs in their windows saying, “NO IRISH NEED APPLY”, much like the sign in Geno’s. Though the signs from the 1920’s and the sign from Geno’s are both racist, I feel like Geno’s sign is less wrong, mainly because the sign from the 1920’s is singling out one group of people for no specific reason. However, the Irish immigrants began mastering the English language and accepting our customs, and soon enough they were accepted as true Americans.
    People say that it is very difficult to assimilate into a new culture and learn a new language, and I agree. However I think it is taking Latin immigrants way too long to do so. Jewish immigrants, who also didn’t speak English, recognized that in order for them to move up in social class, it was vital to master the English language. By at least their 3rd or 4th generations, their many of their children didn’t have a hint of foreign dialogue. Meanwhile, today, we have 7th generation Spanish immigrants who cant say one word in English. Today, the Jews don’t live in the horrible tenements they once lived in, mainly because they were able to assimilate. If these immigrants were able to do the same, I’m sure that they would be able to move up in social status.
    This is the reason I find some truth in Geno’s sign. Language is the most important barrier between two cultures and in order to assimilate you must be able to communicate with those other people. One thing that our government could do to help this issue is to supply English classes to new immigrants. This would allow them to obtain better paying jobs and interact with other Americans more efficiently. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “… we have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…” I agree with this statement, however its not that I don’t want any other languages in the U.S., its just important that everybody can communicate with each other. The U.S. says that it doesn’t have an official language, however I feel that if that was actually true, the courts would have ruled Geno’s to take down their sign.

  7. The guys a genius! I can think of only one other place in the country- Boston, that would stir up Patriotic Americans more! Every Philly lover in town will go buy a cheesteak just because this guy stands up for the LAW and the American way.

    1. How exactly does “speak English” have anything to do with the law? It is not against the law to speak another language. Sadly I imagine people like Joey would like it to be even though his ancestors were one of the most abused and hated groups in this country when they first arrived in mass. I bet is one of his persecuted ancestors knew what he was doing they’d hand their head in shame. Read about the Know Nothing party. Read a little on the history of racism and persecution in this country.

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