Ruling issued in Geno's Steaks sign battle

March 19, 2008 8:50:22 PM PDT
The owner of Geno's Steaks, Joey Vento, and his "Please speak English sign" appear to have been vindicated by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. The beef was over a sign that says "This is America please speak English when ordering." Critics said it was discriminatory, but today the city disagreed.

While the debate about this sign posted on the order counter window rages on, the question of its legality has now been made clear. The Commission on Human Relations says it doesn't violate the city's fair practices ordinance.

Jimmy Curry of Geno's Steaks says, "We always knew we were going to win. Joey didn't do anything wrong. We never refused anyone service."

"I think that the sign is 100 percent right," said Linette Painter from King of Prussia. "You're in the United States of America... I speak English."

But critics, including Councilman Jim Kenney, say the sign discouraged people from different backgrounds from eating at Geno's. He says he never wanted the city government to get involved but believes the sign insinuates intolerance.

"I think the sign is rude. I think it is mean spirited and I don't think it's in the best interest of the city promoting us as a tourist destination both nationally and internationally," says Kenney.

Greg Liautaud of Long Island, New York agrees with Kenney. "I think it's wrong. I think it's discriminatory and I probably wouldn't have eaten here if I saw that."

Owner Joey Vento spoke to Action News over the phone today. He said, "I've been saying for two years that I was right. Finally, the commission made the right decision instead of what was popular. I thank them for that."

Action News could not reach a representative from the commission. Vento said that if the commission had ruled the sign was discriminatory he would have closed shop rather than take that sign down. He said he's entitled to free speech just like any other American.