The Mexican Government Tried To Say Pinche Gringo BBQ’s Name Was Too Vulgar, But They Won A Case Letting Them Keep It
Six years ago, United States native Dan DeFossey and Mexican Roberto Luna took a chance when they opened a BBQ restaurant in the Mexico City neighborhood of Narvarte. Their idea was simple in thought, create a food environment where both U.S. food and Mexican culture meet. It was an idea that was rooted in building a bridge between both countries in increasingly divided times.
“We want to be a cultural center where we offer a variety of activities and a bridge between Mexico and the United States,” DeFossey told Mexican newspaper El Economista back in March. “We want to send a message that there is no wall between us. This place is a letter of friendship between Mexico and my country.”
While the restaurant has seen success and has even opened a second location in Anáhuac, there has also been controversy that until recently put Defossy and Luna in legal trouble. That is mainly due to their restaurant’s name, Pinche Gringo BBQ.
The controversy stemmed from Article 4 of the Industrial Property Law in Mexico that states that “a brand cannot be registered if it is deemed to be contrary to the morals and good manners of society.” In this case the word “Pinche.”
The ordeal started about five years ago when Defossy and Luna attempted to register the restaurant’s name but immediately faced legal challenges. This stemmed from the use of the word “pinche”, essentially meaning “damn” but also used as an offensive term, in its business name.
The term was found offensive and not suitable for registering according to Article 4 of the Industrial Property Law (LPI) prohibits the registration of brands whose contents or form are contrary to the morals and good customs of society. The two didn’t agree with the decision and launched a five-year legal battle to register its name.
Defossy and Luna put forth two factors to defend the use of the name. Both made the argument that “pinche” is also used in some parts of the restaurant industry to describe “kitchen assistant” in formal Spanish. The term is also part of the fabric of the restaurant’s mission in creating “fraternity and camaraderie between citizens of the United States and Mexico.”
“From a gastronomic point of view, the word pinche refers to a cook . . .” Alejandro Luna de Olivares, the owners’ lawyer, old the magazine Forbes México.
After a long legal battle, the restaurant was allowed to keep it’s popular name after the courts ruled in their favor.
“. . . The case reached a collegiate district court and our main argument was that the fourth article of the law is against the constitution because IMPI must not be the arbitrator of morals and good manners,” Luz Elena Elías, another lawyer who represented Pinche Gringo restaurant, told the Mexico Daily News. “In the end, the court ruled in our favor,” she said, noting that the court decision sets a precedent for the use of the term “pinche” in a brand going forward.
Defossy and Luna are happy to put this legal trouble in the rearview mirror and continue to grow their restaurant chain. This also means they can finally make products with the business’s name, which was previously not an option due to the pending legal case.
“The future is very bright. We have a lot of ideas to grow Pinche Gringo. We have plans to open a luxury restaurant with . . . more gourmet food but with a casual atmosphere,” DeFossey said. “What matters most to us with the concept of El Pinche Gringo is to bring about a change and I think we’re achieving it.”
That change goes beyond just their name but how the business is run from the inside out. That starts with the more than 100 employees whom a large majority are Mexicans who were deported from the U.S. after living the majority of their lives there. This is part of El Pinche Gringo’s philosophy and a testament of what they believe in building bridges not walls.
“When someone comes into this house [El Pinche Gringo] it’s as if they’ve arrived in Austin, Texas, and for two hours you have the chance to get up close to a little bit of the food and culture of the United States in an environment where social classes or where you come from don’t matter,” DeFossey says. “When you leave, you return to Mexico, my country for the last 10 years.”