City of Keene in Dispute with Local Restaurant Owner Over 'Pho Keene Great' Name

Dec 31, 2018

The City of Keene is asking a Vietnamese restaurant slated to open this spring to change its name.

The restaurant has a lease with the city to operate out of the same building as City Hall.

But its proposed name, Pho Keene Great, has prompted complaints, said City Manager Elizabeth Dragon.

Pho, pronounced “fuh,” is a kind of Vietnamese soup. “Pho Keene” is intended to sound like a profanity, Dragon said.

Under the terms of the lease, the restaurant must get permission from the city before hanging any signs. The restaurant owner did not do so, however, before putting up a temporary sign earlier this month, prompting city officials to ask that it be removed, Dragon said.

"We're trying to do all we can to make sure she's successful in her business,” she said. “It's just that we have to strike a balance because it is a public building."

Isabelle Jolie, the restaurant owner, has removed the sign for now. A spokesperson for the restaurant said the city's stance could be considered discriminatory and Jolie is waiting to meet with the city before deciding next steps.