Pho restaurants pretty much always have punny names. It just goes with the territory. So it’s a bummer that a city in New Hampshire might require the owner of a pho restaurant that hasn’t even officially opened up yet to change its name.
The Vietnamese restaurant, which is owned by Isabelle Jolie and located in Keene, was going to use the name Pho Keene Great. That’s a legitimately decent pun that incorporates both the name of the food and the name of the city. According to The Keene Sentinel, Jolie let the city know exactly what she was going to name the restaurant when she first filed the paperwork. But some people in the city found the name offensive.
The city manager, Elizabeth Dragon (what a last name!) told Munchies, “I have told Ms. Jolie that the name could be problematic. It is a play on words meant to be profanity. I did get some complaints when the temporary sign was put up, and it was only for a short time.”
Just before Christmas, Jolie had put up a “Coming Soon” sign in the business’ window, but Munchies reports that the sign has already been peeled off.
In a Facebook post, Jolie wrote of the situation, “City manager has deemed our business name as offensive and a permanent sign with our business name, will not be allowed. The one that is pictured is a temporary sign, and it was requested that we take it down due to her opinion that it is offensive name and a contract violation as it relates to City ordinance.”
The name isn’t the only problem with the restaurant, apparently. Dragon told Munchies that Jolie didn’t get the proper approval before hanging that temporary sign with her business’ name on it. She explained, “The restaurant lease has a requirement to get property owner’s permission before installing any signage, lettering, posters or window treatments visible from the exterior. In this situation, the city itself is the aforementioned property owner. Dragon added that Jolie was “leasing a commercial space which is attached to City Hall.”
Speaking to the Sentinel, Jolie stated that she thought the city might be discriminating against her for being Vietnamese. She said,
“It is discriminatory to say that a Vietnamese word, a popular food item combined with the name of our city is considered offensive. If the city denies us a permit now due to our business name, which they have known since lease signing, that is a major issue since we have spent a lot of money.”
Even though the restaurant hasn’t opened yet, Jolie is already selling Pho Keene Great t-shirts. She also took a poll on Facebook asking whether the proposed name of her restaurant is really offensive.
Dragon and Jolie are hoping to meet to discuss where to go from here with the name of the Vietnamese restaurant, but it’ll have to wait until after February, as Jolie is seeking legal advice in the matter. Hopefully, the whole thing turns out so Pho Keene Great.