Owner of Geno's Cheesesteaks Responds to Bias Complaint

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 14, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, well, no English, no cheesesteak, that is the policy over at Geno's Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. And the owner is sticking to it.

Now, since his appearance on this show last Friday, Joe Vento has been slapped with a discrimination complaint by the city. It wants him to take that sign in his window down that reads: "This is America. When ordering, speak English."

Joe is back to give us his response. Joe, what are you going to do?

JOSEPH VENTO, OWNER, GENO'S STEAKS: Well, the sign is definitely not coming down, Neil.

The bottom line is, you know, they take that one word out of the sign. That signs says: "This is America. When ordering, please speak English." They leave that "please" out. So, it's not — I am not demanding it. It just makes things a lot easier.

And the bottom line is, like I said before, nobody gets refused. But the English at Geno's is, cheesesteak. How hard is it to learn that?

CAVUTO: All right. So, what if someone doesn't speak English, again, Joe? What do you say to them? What do you tell them?

VENTO: Well, we point or show them something on the roll. And they go, yes, yes, yes. Well, the difference there is, you are going to get when we are — when we are pumping, you're going to get what is coming off that grill.

If it is an American cheese, that is what you are going to get. But you're not going to get a — walk away without a cheesesteak. It is just that when you do walk away and you look at it, in your language, you are saying to yourself, I wanted a Whiz. I think I better learn how to say Whiz the next time.


VENTO: I mean...

CAVUTO: Well — well, I want to get — you know this fellow, Reverend James S. Allen Sr. I guess he's with the Commission on Human Relations.

He said…

VENTO: I — yes.

CAVUTO: "We think it's discriminatory. And we are concerned about the image of Philadelphia."

What do you say?

VENTO: Well, if they are really worried about the image of Philadelphia, I think they should check their homicide rate.

I mean, the FBI just came out that Philadelphia is up 14 percent in crime. I mean, if they are concerned about the tourists, the tourists come here for Geno's Steaks. We get nothing but tourists. And other tourists that come in from other countries, they have interpreters.

And the next thing you know, we start clowning around, and we start teaching people how to say cheesesteak with — with onions or without. I mean, so, we have fun with it.

But what they — if they are really concerned about things, they better get the safety issues, start hiring some cops, because, if they are worried about the Olympics coming here because Geno's has got a sign that says, you must speak English, the bottom line will go this way.

If you don't speak English, the sign means nothing to you. And, if you do speak English, what is it saying? Speak English. Be proud. You're an American.

CAVUTO: But, Joe, all right. Let me — let me ask you. Now they are threatening sanctions. There are, you know, financial penalties. I know you are an exorbitantly rich guy, but, I mean, really. I mean, this is heating up.

VENTO: Like I said, I'm — I'm sticking to my guns.

It does not come down, the sign. I got all the people there. You have got to see the crowds coming down chanting, honking horns. Don't take this — the main thing that they are saying, don't take the sign down.

What happened? This thing got escalated into a worldwide thing, because this is — you know what this is saying? That people are tired of having the one special group of Spanish people, that they want the Spanish language.

Well, people are fed up with that. They don't want to have to press a button, two for Spanish. No buttons. Pick it up, it's English. You are in America. Speak English.

I stick by my guns. You want to be prosperous, you better learn English. You can have your culture. Nobody is taking that away. The common denominator with everybody is the English language. You have got 1.1 billion Indians and Asians. They are smart enough to know, in the business world, English is it.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Joe, I think you're a great businessman. That is what I think. And I think you knew, when you put this sign out, it was going to generate the response that you got, and that, while I think you certainly strongly feel about this issue, you also are getting great business because of this issue, right?

VENTO: Well, Neil, I go back to this.

I traced it back now — when I said six months, I got proof now it's at least nine months. So, that means it could possibly be closer to a year, but at least nine months. Why wasn't it an issue nine months ago?

CAVUTO: So, this sign has been up nine months...

VENTO: Nine months.

CAVUTO: ... and it only got attention the last few weeks, essentially, right?

VENTO: Right.

The newspaper brought that in. They came to me for an interview. Somehow — can't blame them — they twisted things around. It got misinterpreted. They put it out. They put it on the front page.

CAVUTO: All right.

VENTO: I mean, so, they brought — all I'm doing is responding to them.


VENTO: We want — and I say, stick to your guns, because Joey Vento is sticking to his. And the jury will decide.

CAVUTO: All right, Joey Vento, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you very much.

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