View Full Version : Controversial ‘Speak English’ Sign No Longer Up At Geno’s Steaks

White Boy
06-09-2006, 04:49 PM

English Only, Famed Philly Shop Says
Philly Steak Shop Owner Says ?English Only?

(June 9, 2006)-There's something new on the menu at Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia -- an English-only ordering policy.

Six months ago, Joseph Vento, who runs one of Philly's most famous cheesesteak joints, posted small signs telling customers "This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING 'SPEAK ENGLISH'."

Geno's owner however, is quick to point out that no one has ever been denied service because of an inability to speak English.

Vento says he bears no ill will toward immigrants.

"All we're asking them to do is learn the English language,? he said.

While he says reaction in his restaurant has been positive, not everyone is happy with it.

One Latino advocacy group says it
plans to send people to Geno's to try to order in Spanish.

Depending on what happens, the group may pursue court action.

06-10-2006, 05:19 PM
The Immigration Debate | Then vs. Now
An old struggle to adapt to a new country's ways (http://****************/mld/inquirer/news/local/14697552.htm)
Joseph Vento, whose grandparents came from Italy, insists that customers at Geno's Steaks order in English. "Why should I have to bend?" he says.

Joseph Vento, whose grandparents came from Italy, insists that customers at Geno's Steaks order in English. "Why should I have to bend?" he says.

Joseph Vento, whose grandparents came from Italy, insists that customers at Geno's Steaks order in English. "Why should I have to bend?" he says.

How do you say cheesesteak with in Spanish?

Joseph Vento, the owner of Geno's Steaks, doesn't know. And he doesn't ca

Just read the laminated signs, festooned with American eagles, at his South Philadelphia cheesesteak emporium: This is America. When Ordering, Speak English.

Vento's political statement - from a man whose Italian-born grandparents spoke only broken English - captures the anger and discontent felt by many Americans about illegal immigrants.

With a battle looming between the House and Senate on legalizing some immigration violators, the public backlash is framed by two complaints:

One, my grandparents came legally. How come these guys can't? And, two, my grandparents had to learn English. How come these guys don't?

"Go back to the 19th century, and play by those rules," said Vento, 66, whose grandfather became a U.S. citizen in 1921.

But history challenges many assumptions about the hurdles aspiring Americans used to face, say scholars of the last massive migration to the United States, which occurred between 1880 and 1920.

"There was no such
thing as an 'illegal' immigrant," said Roger Daniels, a member of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island History Committee and author of Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigrants and Immigration Policy Since 1882.

The Old Country often required exit visas, which created the possibility of illegal emigrants. But the United States did not issue entry visas until 1921.

Before that, no meaningful immigration restrictions existed, except for a bar on Chinese enacted in 1882. Congress imposed no other limits on the number of immigrants - from any one country, or in total. About a million arrived each year in the early 1900s. It wasn't until 1924 that Congress imposed an annual cap of 155,000 immigrants.

"If you could get here and weren't terribly diseased, you could get in," Daniels said.

By contrast, backlogs, country quotas and annual caps now make legal immigration a tortuous and nearly impossible process for many, said Thomas Conaghan, director of the Irish Immigration and Pasto
ral Center in Upper Darby.

Past immigrants, once here, faced a backlash fueled by anxiety about religions, languages and races that were relatively new to the United States. Fear of anarchist and "Red" ideologies and the competition for jobs also played roles.

Help-wanted ads limited applicants to native-born Americans, said Kathryn Wilson, director of education at the Pennsylvania Historical Society.

Current critics of illegal immigration echo earlier generations of nativists, say academic experts on ethnicity.

"A lot of the rhetoric was similar: 'They don't speak English. They don't want to be Americans,' " said Mae M. Ngai, a University of Chicago historian and author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.

The Senate bill passed last Thursday, which gives some illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens, included an amendment that would make English the national language.

An English-only movement also took shape in th
e late 19th century, with an abortive attempt to require newcomers to read a passage in English at Ellis Island. In the end, the literacy test was administered, but in the immigrant's native tongue.

Joseph Vento's grandfather and namesake, a street-corner jeweler from Sicily, had trouble with English.

"They tried," Vento said of his grandparents. "They had a hard time. Look at the price they paid. They were limited."

The Ventos rarely left their South Philadelphia neighborhood. Now, in a way, the neighborhood has left the couple's descendants. Geno's sits at Ninth and Passyunk, the hub of Little Italy turned home to thousands of Mexicans.

Some try to order a cheesesteak. And it bugs Vento if they can't ask for American cheese, provolone or the classic - Cheez Whiz - without pointing.

"If you can't tell me what you want, I can't serve you," he said. "It's up to you. If you can't read, if you can't say the word cheese, how can I communicate with you - and why shou
ld I have to bend?

"I got a business to run."

Vento, who lives in Shamong, put up the signs when the immigration debate seized national headlines six months ago.

With Geno's Steaks tattooed on his arm, Vento is used to publicizing things, especially what's on his mind. Speak English signs also poster his Hummer. He has driven through South Philadelphia blaring through the SUV's P.A. system denunciations of neighborhood business owners who hire illegal immigrants.

"I say what everybody's thinking but is afraid to say," Vento said.

That many think as he does may be true. The dominance of Latinos among new immigrants has triggered a backlash, said Peter Skerry, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution.

Spanish-speakers make up about 30 percent of legal migrants and roughly 80 percent of illegal migrants, compared with the 21 percent preponderance of Italians a century ago.

"It's just a huge concentration . . . that raises questions for people ab
out how these immigrants are assimilating," Skerry said.

He and other experts say that current immigrants are taking no longer to assimilate than Vento's grandfather did. Now, as then, English takes hold among the children of immigrants, and native languages disappear by the third generation.

What's different, Skerry said, is that many Americans now value multiculturalism, and technology allows it to flourish. Satellite TV beams soap operas from Latin America to U.S. living rooms, phones make it cheap and easy to connect with relatives back home, and airplanes allow a back-and-forth existence.

In society, "there is a notion that people are entitled to their own culture," he said. "Assimilation is a dirty word in many quarters. Sometimes, we don't even use the word anymore."

Vento is lashing out at that self-assertion by immigrants: "I don't want somebody coming here to change my culture to their culture," he said.
"They want us to adapt to these people. What do you me
an, 'Press 1 for Spanish'? English, period. Case closed. End of discussion. You better make it the official language."
Contact staff writer Gaiutra Bahadur at 215-854-2601 or bahadug@**********.com.

The Bobster
02-08-2007, 04:11 PM

Discrimination Case Advances Against Geno's Steaks

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - February 7, 2007 - The battle over an English-only ordering policy at one of the city's signature cheesesteak joints is apparently far from over.

The city's human relations commission found evidence that the owner of Geno's Steaks may have discriminated against immigrants by posting a sign telling customers, "This is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING 'PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH,"' according to a letter sent to owner Joe Vento last week.

Vento's attorneys had hoped the matter would be dropped, but the commission said in the Jan. 31 letter that it found probable cause that discrimination occurred and was moving forward with the case. The commission also suggested that the matter could be resolved through mediation.

Vento's legal team would not rule out some sort of mediation, but they said Vento, the fiery grandson of Italian immigrants, would not take the sign down.

"Any effort to save the resources of taxpayer-funded government is a good idea, but not at the cost of free speech," said Todd Young, policy director for Atlanta-based Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm that has joined the case.

After extensive publicity over the sign in June, the commission began investigating whether Vento was violating the city's Fair Practices Ordinance. That law prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing on the basis of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Vento and his attorneys maintain that no one has ever been turned away at the South Philadelphia shop. Geno's, along with bitter cross-street rival Pat's King of Steaks, forms the epicenter of an area often described as ground zero for cheesesteaks.

"They could have found out in one day that nobody has ever been refused service," Vento said Wednesday.

Albert Weiss, Vento's Philadelphia attorney, said he was shocked that the city was not dropping the case because he hadn't heard from anyone in weeks.

"I felt they were just letting it die a quiet death," Weiss said.

A message left with the human relations commission was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The Bobster
12-14-2007, 03:15 PM

Geno's: When Ordering Speak English

PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3) ― The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations is holding a public hearing to address a controversial sign at the popular Geno's Steaks that has gained national attention.

The hearing was scheduled after allegations were made accusing Geno's Steaks of discrimination for posting a sign that reads: "This is America. When ordering speak English."

Geno's owner Joey Vento said it is "free speech."

"Since we have a little problem in the country with the language, it is also telling people at Geno's Steaks, all we speak is English," Vento said.

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) does not see it that way and alleges Geno's is in violation of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance - Chapter 9 Section 9-1105 (A) (1) (b) of The Philadelphia Code.

The commission believes the sign discourages patronage by non-English speaking customers.

"Individuals who operate in a place of public accommodation cannot post signage or express messages that might have the resulting affect of making any group, any ethnicity, and any national origin person feel unwelcome," said Nick Taliaferro, Human Relations Commission.

Philadelphians have varying opinions.

"It doesn't matter. This is America and you can have any kind of take on what ever you want," said customer Andrew Tyson of South Philadelphia.

Amar Vyas of Roxborough disagrees.

"I like the food at Geno's but I believe it is discriminatory towards people of other ethnic backgrounds."

Ventos said either way you will be served.

"It's a request. And if you don't speak the language, how's it offensive? You don't understand it anyway."

Vento, along with his supporters and opponents, are arguing their point at a public hearing at the Arch Street Meeting House, 320 Arch Street. The meeting went on late into the day on Friday. A ruling was not expected to be handed down on Friday.

"There's no way I'm backing down," said Vento. :lol:

The Bobster
03-19-2008, 02:16 PM

Ruling: Geno's Steaks English-Only Signs Not Discriminatory

POSTED: 4:16 pm EDT March 19, 2008
UPDATED: 4:47 pm EDT March 19, 2008

PHILADELPHIA -- A Philadelphia agency has ruled that English-only signs at a famous cheesesteak shop are not discriminatory.

The Commission on Human Relations ruled Wednesday that the sign at Geno's Steaks does not violate the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.

Joe Vento posted the signs at his shop in October 2005. They read "This is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING 'PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH."'

Critics alleged that the policy discourages customers of certain backgrounds from eating there. They said the signs discourage non-English speakers from going to the shop.

Vento said he has never refused service to anyone because they couldn't speak English.

The Bobster
08-24-2011, 06:42 AM

Geno’s Steaks Employees Remember Owner, Joey Vento
August 24, 2011 7:24 AM

Geno’s employee Tommy Endris with Vento cardboard cutout. (Credit: Hadas Kuznits)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Legendary cheesesteak shop owner Joey Vento has died.

Employees at Geno’s Steaks learned of their boss’s passing when they came in to work the evening shift.

Controversial owner Joey Vento, who famously put up a sign reading, “This is America when ordering, please speak English”¯ passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 71.

Joe Skats, who worked at Geno’s for about 15 years, says Joey Vento was a hard working man who worked until the day he died. “Four in the morning every day, and he’s working, he’s got his apron on.”¯

Manager Joseph Perno says as a tribute to Vento, Geno’s will remain open. “You know, he still has his son, his wife and my other aunt; his sister-in-law. I’m his nephew and we got employees that have been here for years that are going to just keep it going along.”¯

“It’s hard but he’s here,”¯ Skats says. “He ain’t going nowhere! He’s going to lead us from up there, so we have to take every step as we go!”¯

Thirty-year employee Tommy Endris describes his boss as a character: “His views were his own, but he was a good hearted man, he was just — he was Joey Vento, that’s all! He was just one of a kind!”¯

Endris saw Vento just a few hours before hearing the sad news.

“And we were just talking about — you know he was joking around — I mean, you never know!!!”¯

He says Vento came in every morning to put in the orders, including on the day he died.

“He’s going to be missed by me, I’m gonna tell you that right now. Joe — I know you’re up there listening! God bless you, and rest.”¯

Perno says folks have been calling Geno’s non-stop about Vento. The family is asking for privacy during this difficult time.

The Bobster
09-06-2013, 05:59 AM

Geno Vento Talks About Controversial Sign In Shop
Posted: Sep 05, 2013 10:41 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 05, 2013 10:43 PM EDT


PHILADELPHIA - Whether your favorite cheesesteak comes from "Geno's", "Pat's", or "Tony Luke's," there's no denying that Joey Vento was quite the character.

Joey ran Geno's Steaks for 45 years until his death in 2011.

But now, there's a new man running the joint. Meet Geno Vento, Joey's son and the man for which the steak shop is named. Geno took over the shop after his father passed away.

Joey Vento was a lightning rod for controversy after he put up a sign at his famous steak shop that read, "This is America. When ordering "Speak English."

"This is America, correct? Please speak English. If you don't speak English, how is it offensive? you cannot read the sign anyway," said Joey, years ago when FOX 29 talked to him.

Geno says his father was "old school," and he's trying a few new tricks when it comes to managing one of the biggest steak shops in town. But as for the infamous sign, he says it's staying up.

"I definitely know him on a different level. People can say negative things about anybody, anything about controversy. But we know what he does, he donates to a lot of charities, he gives back to the community. So if that is a racist, then he is a racist," says Geno.

Next Tuesday, in honor of Geno's 47th anniversary, cheese steaks are only 50 cents, from noon, to two p.m.

The restaurant is also holding a raffle, and all the money raised will go towards cancer research.

The Bobster
10-13-2016, 06:15 AM
Controversial ‘Speak English’ Sign No Longer Up At Geno’s Steaks (http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/10/13/controversial-please-speak-english-sign-no-longer-up-at-genos-steaks/)
October 13, 2016 9:05 AM By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It caused a stir for a decade, but now it’s no longer up at a popular South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop.

Geno’s Steaks this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary. For the last 10 years, the sign at the window read, “This is America: When ordering, please speak English.”

But this morning that sign is no longer posted. Why that is, it’s not clear right now.

No comment from staff at Geno’s this morning. We’re still waiting to hear back from current owner Geno Vento.

His father, Joey Vento, decided to post the sign in 2006. Controversy followed, some complained that the sign was discrimination.

Vento maintained he didn’t turn people away.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that it was not discrimination in 2008 and the sign stayed. It didn’t go anywhere even after Joey Vento died in 2011

As for reaction, a neighbor who has lived around here for three decades, says he knew Joey Vento and the sign should stay up.