The only remaining location of a historic breakfast chain in Santa Barbara is changing its name after thousands of people petitioned against its use of a racial epithet.
The owners of Sambo’s on W. Cabrillo Blvd. haven’t decided on a new name yet, but agreed that it was time for the 63-year-old restaurant to take action amid nationwide protests against police brutality and widespread racism. On Thursday, staff began to temporarily cover the bubble-lettered sign with symbols demonstrating peace and love.
“Our family has looked into our hearts and realize that we must be sensitive when others whom we respect make a strong appeal. So today we stand in solidarity with those seeking change and doing our part as best we can,” Chad and Michelle Stevens wrote in a joint statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
When the restaurant was established in 1957, founders Sam Battistone — Chad’s grandfather — and Newell Bohnett chose the title because it combined the first three letters of Battistone’s name and the last two of Bohnett’s. The term is a derogatory slur against black and indigenous people, and the decision forced several locations to close or rename throughout the 1980s, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. Still, for decades, the walls of Sambo’s restaurants nationwide were adorned with painted imagery associated with “The Story of Little Black Sambo,” a children’s book written by Helen Bannerman in 1899 that became controversial for its depictions of racial stereotypes.
“Thank you for taking initiative and hearing the community’s outcry,” wrote Yvonne Garcia on Facebook. “I have close family members who have been offended by this name since I was a kid.”
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