Monday, June 12, 2006


Geno's Steaks owner Joseph Vento posts a sign on the front door of his business in South Philadelphia. The sign says, "This is America - when ordering, 'speak English'". That move raised the eyebrows of some city's officials. Acting executive director of Philadelphia's Commission on Human Relations Rachel Lawton said, "It's discouraging patronage by non-English speaking customers because of their national origin or ancestry."

But Vento won't remove the sign. Vento, 66, whose grandparents struggled to learn English after arriving from Sicily, said he has no intention of giving in. "I would say they would have to handcuff me and take me out because I'm not taking it down," he said.

Now, personally, I have a different opinion than Vento. But, there is no getting around this fact: I am not the owner, Joseph Vento is. And the owner makes the rules. In 2000, when talking about T-Bell Sound (my defunct business), I make the call. But I am not talking about T-Bell Sound, I am talking about Geno's Steaks.

And, in a free society, the government will have nothing to do with peaceful business. But Philadelphia is not a free society. The city's Commission on Human Relations will file a complaint later on Monday, effectively opening a case against Geno's. The business will have two weeks to respond.

He said no one is refused service and no one is discriminated against. So what? He can discriminate all he wants; he is the owner, and he makes the rules. If the customers don't like it, then don't eat at Geno's. Take their business elsewhere; that's their choice. If enough people don't eat at the business, Vento will change the rules, or go out of business. That's free-enterprise. But the City of Philadelphia should have nothing to do with running his business. That's the voluntary relationship between the owner and the customers, end of story.


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