Patrick Walters, AP, March 19, 2008
The owner of a famous cheesesteak shop did not discriminate when he posted signs asking customers to speak English, a city panel ruled Wednesday.
In a 2-1 vote, a Commission on Human Relations panel found that two signs at Geno’s Steaks telling customers, “This is America: WHEN ORDERING ‘PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH,’” do not violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.
Shop owner Joe Vento has said he posted the signs in October 2005 because of concerns over immigration reform and an increasing number of people in the area who could not order in English.
Vento has said he never refused service to anyone because they couldn’t speak English. But critics argued that the signs discourage customers of certain backgrounds from eating at the shop.
Commissioners Roxanne E. Covington and Burt Siegel voted to dismiss the complaint, finding that the sign does not communicate that business will be “refused, withheld or denied.”
In a dissenting opinion, Commissioner Joseph J. Centeno said he thought the signs did discourage some customers.
Vento had threatened to go to court if he lost. His attorney, Albert G. Weiss, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by Wednesday’s decision.