DENVER (CBS4) — The Colorado-based restaurant chain Illegal Pete’s has won a legal battle over their name in Delaware. State officials claimed the name had “a negative connotation” and refused to let the company incorporate there.
Officials with Illegal Pete’s said they believed the complaint was based on “the incorrect assumption that the name was racially-charged” and sued for infringement of First Amendment rights earlier this year. The State of Delaware ultimately settled the case and agreed to pay for the restaurant’s legal fees, according to a statement released by the chain on Tuesday.
Illegal Pete’s founder and president, Pete Turner, has repeatedly said the name has no racial or immigration-related connotations and is an homage to his father, Pete Turner, Sr., who he described as a “good old fashioned hell-raiser.”
“The word ‘illegal’ in our name is a reference to the countercultural, to the rebellious, to the very picture of challenging authority that the restaurants were founded upon,” restaurant officials said in a statement earlier this year.
“In our current political times, divided and filled with racial tension, our name has been unwittingly rolled into a larger conversation about race, the United States, who belongs here and if a human being should ever be referred to as ‘illegal,'” the statement continued. “We believe that no person should be referred to as ‘illegal’ because of where they come from… We believe this is a vital conversation, and we’ll participate in the dialogue as immigrants, allies and friends of immigrants; we just maintain that our name has nothing to do with this fight.”
The state also agreed to change their corporate naming guidelines to better honor the First Amendment.
“We see this as vindication of our position,” Turner was quoted as saying in the statement released Tuesday. The settlement was reached in August but company officials said they waited to make their announcement until final receipt of the cash settlement.
Illegal Pete’s has 11 locations in Colorado, two in Arizona, and “and even more out-of-state locations planned in the future.”