KEENE, N.H. (Meredith) — City officials in New Hampshire have approved a restaurant sign that initially was taken down over concerns that it sounded like profanity.
The name of the Vietnamese restaurant is Pho Keene Great. It is in a public building next to City Hall in the town of Keene and is a play on a type of soup, which is spelled P-H-O, but is pronounced "fuh."
In a press release, the restaurant said its name is supposed to be a double entendre and that they "wanted it to be all the things that a business would need to engage its audience: catchy, memorable, creative, fun and to make it a conversation piece about Vietnam’s most famous comfort food, phở."
City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said in an email to the Associated Press that the sign was approved Friday and is in compliance. She said no one had submitted written permission to put up any sign until Jan. 4.
Jolie said she doesn't think the name is offensive.
Dragon told New Hampshire Public Radio the city wants Jolie to be successful, but that it has to strike a balance.
However, Dragon said officials decided to let the community "decide what they think of the sign and how they interpret it."
In a Facebook post, restaurant owners said Dragon did "the right thing and signed off on our sign on behalf of the city and the Community Development Department has determined that the sign is in compliance with the sign code. Now let us focus on Pho!"
The restaurant also said they have no plans on changing the business name and thanked customers for the "tremendous support not just in the United States, but, worldwide."
Pho Keene Great is scheduled to open March 1.
Prior to the battle being resolved, Pho King Great issued a press release regarding the situation. Read the restaurant's full statement here:
The issue of our business name being cited as offensive or inappropriate is pending a meeting with the City Manager, Elizabeth Dragon. We hope to resolve this issue in early February when all parties are able to convene. In the interim and to be transparent, we will address misconceptions that some people may have surrounding this controversy
First, let’s address the City manager’s concern about the ‘play on words.’ Yes, it is a double entendre. In the famous words of, Justice John Marshall Harlan II, “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.” We wanted it to be all the things that a business would need to engage its audience: catchy, memorable, creative, fun and to make it a conversation piece about Vietnam’s most famous comfort food, phở. Of course, we wanted to put Keene, NH, in our marketing campaign since this was the location of our bar & restaurant. Finally, we used an adjective that best described the greatness of this delicious Vietnamese national dish, phở (pronounce it as if you were asking question, fuh? or fa?). It also described the greatness of Keene, as well. The double entendre was derived at innocently and yes, there is a back story for another time. The goal was to bring people together by offering specialized cocktails and craft beers along with great French-Vietnamese food to an area that was deficient in cultural diversity. It was that simple. No offense was ever intended.
Second, we revealed our official business name in an e-mail that was dated, February 21, and it was ratified in our contract on April 2, 2018.
Third, the temporary sign that we placed in our window on December 21, on the interior side, was removed in compliance with the city manager’s request. It was only displayed for less than a week. Permitting issues remain unclear until a meeting with the city manager occurs.
Fourth, we do not have any plans on changing our business name. We have spent many thousands of dollars investing in this venture because we believed in every aspect of our concept and that includes the branding and marketing of our business name. We have a tentative opening date of, March 1, 2019, and would like the blessings of Keene City government to have an exterior sign with our business name on it. We will open with a limited menu of Vietnam’s most popular and well-known dishes with a full-service bar featuring locally made craft beers and special Vietnamese libations. To view the menu: www.PhoKeeneGreat.com.
We have received tremendous support not just in the United States, but, world-wide: Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, UK, Hong Kong. People are reaching out to us on every conceivable level and we are grateful. As you can see, we put Keene back on the map and hope to see you in March. Thank you.
Pho Keene Great t-shirts, can be purchased by the only authorized t-shirt vendor: Route 101, Local Goods, Keene, NH. 603-499-4949.