Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Is Joey Vento Smiling?

Could it be because a gang of local reporters and photographers swarmed around him yesterday to hear his take on sweet vindication by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations? And could the renewed publicity result in an uptick in cheese steak sales at his stand, Geno's, in South Philly?

Why Is Joey Vento Smiling?

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Why is Joey Vento smiling in this picture of his press conference from yesterday?
Why is Joey Vento smiling in this picture of his press conference from yesterday? DAVID MAIALETTI / Daily News

Could it be because a gang of local reporters and photographers swarmed around him yesterday to hear his take on sweet vindication by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations?  And could the renewed publicity result in an uptick in cheese steak sales at his stand, Geno's, in South Philly?

PhillyClout posed that question today to Nick Taliaferro, executive director of the Commission on Human Relations, after he discussed his annual budget with City Council.  "I would not seek to rummage through the thoughts of Mr. Vento," Taliaferro said. "Our task as an agency is not to determine whether or not a business will be benefited or whether it will be broken. We don't wish for that to happen."

Vento is demanding apologies from the city and changes to the way the commission deals with cases like his. He drew notoriety by posting a sign in his stand's window that reads: "This is America. When ordering, please speak English."  The commission last month ruled that Vento's sign did not give customers the sense that they couldn't order food if they didn't speak English.

Taliaferro said he doesn't owe Vento an apology and the question of whether to alter the city's codes falls to Council and the mayor.  And he laughed at suggestions of a city "fix" to let Vento off the hook so the whole affair, which has drawn national media attention, would fade away.  "I can assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt...that if this was a fix, it was the worst fix in history," Taliaferro said with a chuckle. "There was no fix."

UPDATE:  Vento, during a public hearing held by the Commission on Human Relations in December, bragged that his cheese steak sales soared after a complaint was filed in May 2006 about his "please speak English" sign.  Vento's testimony follows:

Question: Mr. Vento, since this incident arose, this action arose, how has business been?

Answer: Terrific, phenomenal.

Question: Better than it was before?

Answer: Terrific, yes.

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About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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