The name Lucharitos in flashing lights elicits thoughts of delicious tacos and margaritas for many Greenport diners.
But for one Greenport Village Historic Preservation Commission member, it elicits thoughts of cockfighting rings and fears that the Mexican restaurant’s sign could draw Hispanic people looking for a brawl.
Marc LaMaina, the proprietor of Lucharitos Taqueria & Tequila Bar on Greenport’s Main Street, went before the commission on March 10 to have his business’s sign approved, but the commission’s Roselle Borrelli kept steering the conversation around to the name of the restaurant and how it might be perceived.
“Lucharito means ‘baby fighter,'” LaMaina told the commission. The restaurant is named for his son, who was in the hospital for a week after he was born. “A Luchador is a Mexican wrestler,” he said, “and similar to American WWF wrestling. It’s more like a soap opera.”
Borrelli, who has lived in both Mexico and Spain, was concerned that LaMaina’s intended meaning could be lost on some—namely, Hispanics.
“Given that it’s called Lucharitos, you turn those lights on, and to me, it’s like one step away from cockfighting or pit bulls.” Borrelli said. “Or it’s sort of setting the wrong—”
“Tone?” commission member Lucy Clark suggested. LaMaina said that is just Borrelli’s perception.
“I’m thinking that maybe we don’t want to go in that direction,” Borrelli said. “Maybe if we tone it down a little bit.”
She said she loves Lucharitos’ black and pink tablecloths, which are “an amazing, very Mexican way to take it.”
LaMaina pointed out it isn’t tablecloths that bring in customers on a Monday night in Greenport.
“[A]s far as the sign goes with the colors, it’s very — the pink is very, you know, Mexican, you know?” Borrelli said. While she did not object to the sign being Mexican-influenced, she did object to the “fighting theme.”
The commision quickly moved to approve the sign, unanimously, though the sign’s lights were still an issue.
Lucheritos opened in December 2012, and the sign in question was installed in November 2013. The Greenport Zoning Board of Appeals asked LaMaina not to turn on the sign’s lights, which blink. The historic commission members said they don’t mind the lights being on the sign, but they are against the lights blinking.
“I think it would be a little bit more in keeping with the vintage feeling and the historic feeling if the lights were just on, and I think it would be very attractive,” member Caroline Waloski said.
But the last member asked her opinion on the lights, Borrelli, wanted to talk about the business’ name again. “I’ve just got an issue with the whole title of the whole thing,” she said, continuing to go on about it after being asked to stick to talking about the lights.
“I don’t know what kind of crowd you want to attract… Do you know what I mean?” she asked. Borrelli said she patronizes the restaurant with her kids all the time. But the fighting theme still irked her, apparently. She said it has an “aggresive kind of feel.”
LaMaina did not see things that way, nor did any commission member who expressed an opinion. “Our logo is a baby with a mask on it,” LaMaina said.
Borrelli acknowledged that, but tried to get across the point that perceptions of the sign’s meaning are different for different cultures, and problems could arise when someone misses LaMaina’s intended meaning.
She said that Greenport has a very large Hispanic population, which she is “involved with.” Though many residents of Greenport may view the “fighting sign” as infantile, some cultures will take the meaning differently, she explained.
“What I wanted to say was, even though you paint something pink, hot pink, and you paint something blue, it doesn’t mean that you’re attracting an infantile crowd, because in Mexico homes are painted Pepto Bismol pink, and the pink color itself is called Rosa Mexicano,” Borrelli said. “So there is a color qualified to that hot pink color. It’s a color in its own right.”
“I love your restaurant, and I’m in there a lot with my kids eating all the stuff, and having drinks and margarita and Dos Equis, and whatever, and I think it’s great,” she told LaMaina. “But what I’m saying is to just make sure that we keep it in a fashion, in a tone, that it doesn’t start fights. And we don’t start stuff because people are getting the wrong idea of what Lucharitos is, because it’s not just Americans here in Greenport; we’re a diverse community.”
Ultimately, the majority of board members voted to recommend to the zoning board of appeals that the sign’s lights should stay as long as they don’t flash or blink. And LaMaina was not moved to change the name of his business or tone it down.
During a phone interview Friday, Borrelli said she doesn’t think she was clear at the meeting and “no one seemed to get the point.” She said “luchar” means “to fight” and Lucharitos can also be taken to mean “little brawls.” That meaning is bypassing the Americans, according to Borrelli.
“I didn’t want it to start being a hangout for gangs …” she said. “I want it to continue to be a nice place for kids.”
The sign’s colors would not be considered “infantile” by Mexicans and the lights give the sign a circus feel, Borrelli said. She noted that she lived in Mexico for more than eight years and her children were born in Mexico City.
Borrelli said she was not be disparaging toward Hispanics at the meeting. Rather, she was speaking for the Mexican perspective, trying to explain how the sign could be misconstrued. However, she said the effort may have been for nothing.
“Maybe the kind of Hispanic who lives in Greenport doesn’t have the money to be sitting in a margarita bar,” Borrelli said.