Pho Keene Great isn’t going down without a phight.
The French-Vietnamese restaurant, which is scheduled to open on March 1, is accusing city council members in the town of Keene, N.H., of “spreading a false narrative” after asking the owner to remove a temporary sign displaying the name.
Pho Keene Great had originally removed the sign in late December at the request of City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, who told restaurant owner Isabelle Jolie that the establishment hadn’t gotten the correct permit to post it. Pho Keene Great also claims Dragon found the name of the restaurant – which is a play on the word pho (pronounced “fuh”) and the name of the town (Keene) – offensive, leading to complaints from Keene residents.
In a Sunday post on Facebook, Pho Keene Great says city officials are also accusing the restaurant of violating a lease with the city – the eatery will be housed in the same building as Keane city hall, according to New Hampshire Public Radio – and suggesting that Pho Keene Great had considered using another name altogether at the time the contract was signed.
“Keene City councilor, Randy Filiault, is creating and spreading a false narrative,” reads a statement posted by Pho Keene Great’s team to Facebook on Sunday. “In his statement… he indicates that our lease agreement was conditional and ‘one of the conditions was that a different name would be used.’”
Pho Keene Great instead claims they had never offered to use another name, and furthermore, that the name was on the paperwork that the city and state approved as of April.
“We have reviewed our contract and studied the sign ordinance regarding temporary signs and do not believe we violated ordinance or the contract,” the restaurant wrote. “As for the permanent sign, which we have never placed on the building, inside or outside, the permit submission is pending resolve of this controversy.”
In a statement to Fox News, however, Dragon claims Jolie had not yet received a permit to put outward facing signs on the restaurant, something that Dragon claims Jolie and her lawyer agreed to long ago. Dragon further says Jolie negotiated "under her food truck name — Bon Vivant Gourmet Street Food," and "entered the lease as Pho Keene Great, LLC."
"Lots of businesses own LLC’s which aren’t necessarily the same of name of the restaurant, store, apartment building, etc.," said Dragon.
Dragon alleged that Jolie is also postponing a meeting with city management, despite the restaurant's claims to the contrary in Pho Keene Great's latest Facebook post.
Prior to Sunday post, Pho Keene Great had also been polling social media users, asking if they think the name of the restaurant is offensive.
A representative for Pho Keene Great was not immediately available to comment.