Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Bandidos owner
responds to 'namegate'

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Owners of Bandidos, a Mexican restaurant in the Castro, had removed their sign earlier this week in response to complaints from some people that the eatery's name is offensive. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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A co-owner of Bandidos, a newly opened Mexican restaurant in San Francisco's Castro district, said this week the eatery may get a new name because some have complained the current name is offensive.

"We're still trying to decide" what to do, Jesse Woodward, 38, said outside the business, at 2200 Market Street, Tuesday, September 9, one week after its September 2 opening.

This week the owners removed the restaurant's sign from the front of the eatery.

Woodward said the sign, which was taken down after the complaints about the name, "was always temporary." He said he didn't know "whether it's coming back or not."

[Update: As the Bay Area Reporter noted on its blog, the owners have changed the restaurant name to Hecho.]

Woodward has spoken with local queer comedian Marga Gomez, who's been among those posting to Facebook in the past several days that the name Bandidos is offensive.

"She's asked us to consider changing the name," Woodward, who's gay, said. "We're still talking about it."

In a phone interview Tuesday, Gomez said, "The word has been used as a slur in the past. ... Why are we reviving a slur from the past when there are so many other names you can call a restaurant?"

She said the name "translates to 'bandits,'" and "it has a lot to do with stereotypes of Mexican people," such as "bushy beards, criminals," and "untrustworthy" figures.

"That's what the word has meant in the not-too-distant past," Gomez said.

Woodward said, "Our inspiration was always the Mexican revolutionaries," such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. He called the men "heroes for a lot of Mexican people. They were looked up to."

"Obviously," Woodward said, if he'd understood that the name represented something "negative," he and co-owner Dana Gleim "never would have used the name."

In response to comments on the eatery's Facebook page, Bandidos posted a comment last week that said, "[W]e all felt that the name evoked the spirit of an old-school place where badasses and outlaws would meet for one-too many tequilas."

The post has been removed but the Castrobiscuit.com news site (now part of Hoodline.com) has a screen grab of the remark.

"Dana and I just have to consult some more people to get some more feedback," Woodward told the Bay Area Reporter , before deciding whether they'll make the change. He didn't know with whom they would be consulting.

Asked what the new name could be, Woodward said, "Good question ... I don't know."

Some of the menu items, such as the cocktail "Juan in a Million," have also drawn complaints. Woodward said the drink is named after his boyfriend, John, who he calls Juan.

"I have no idea why it's controversial," he said.

Woodward said the trouble started after consulting chef Jamie Lauren told the San Francisco Chronicle's Inside Scoop restaurant blog "I hate to call it white people Mexican food but it is. And I think the Castro needs a place like that."

He said Lauren's remark was "totally stupid and we regret it." She was "trying to say it's not authentic Mexican food," and the quote "sounded like 'Mexican food for white people,'" Woodward said.

In a Facebook exchange, Lauren, a lesbian who lives in Los Angeles, said the "white people Mexican food" comment "was never meant to offend or hurt anyone."

"What I meant was the food isn't as authentic as traditional Mexican food, that it was inspired by the Mexico I know from years of visiting," she said. "[T]hat's all, it was never meant as anything more than that."

She added, "I had nothing to do with" the restaurant's or cocktail names – "I was hired to design the menu and that is all."

Lauren said she's "no longer working at Bandidos, nor can I be found there on a regular basis." She said she wishes the restaurant "nothing but success in the future moving forward, and I hope that Dana and Jesse can make it through this storm unscathed."

Woodward said, "We've had the name for a year," but the first time he'd heard complaints about it was when people started discussing it recently.

Gomez thought many people were just now complaining about the name because "I don't think a lot of people knew anything about the name of the restaurant until it opened. ... How would I know? I wouldn't know."

She also said a meeting was planned with Bandidos' owners but she said another person who was planning on attending felt that "in good faith we shouldn't really talk right now while we're doing these negotiations." She declined to say what it is she wants.

Despite posting several comments to Facebook about the restaurant, Gomez said, "I'm not really the right person to get this information from, so I can't really say anything more about it until we talk to Dana and Jesse."

It doesn't appear the concerns from what Woodward described as "a very small group of people" have hurt sales. Business has been "great," he said. Customers haven't complained.

Gomez said she lives in the neighborhood and was "frustrated" because "I would have loved to try their menu."

As for whether she'd ever said anything in her comedy act that could be construed as negative toward Latinos or others, Gomez said, "That's a different discussion" and she and others were focused on Bandidos and other matters.

As the Bay Area Reporter wrote in a July Business Briefs column about the restaurant, Woodward and Gleim are also two of the partners behind the gay sports bar Hi Tops, across the street from Bandidos. Gleim didn't respond to interview requests.

 

 






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