The original Sambo’s restaurant on Cabrillo Boulevard, established in 1957, covered up its name, long been considered to be racist, with the symbols for peace and love Friday. The owners decided to change the name in response to a demand by Black Lives Matter protestors and a separate petition with thousands of signatures also seeking change.
The owners, Chad and Michelle Stevens, inherited the restaurant from Chad’s grandfather, Sam Battistone, and his partner, Newell Bohnett, who founded the restaurant in Santa Barbara over 60 years ago. They say the name was derived from a combination of the first three letters of one name and two from the other.
Though this is not the first time the name of the restaurant has been under fire, an activist not connected to the Black Lives Matter movement, Rashelle Monet, who began the petition drive after last week’s protests, successfully convinced the the owners to change.
“I think Mr. Stevens said it best,” said city spokesperson Anthony Wagner. “He wasn’t married to a name. The name meant something to him because it was the first and last initials of his grandfather, but the perception and what it had become was something Mr. Stevens didn’t stand for. I applaud Rachelle and Mr. Stevens for having the introspection to bring about positive change.”
Monet was hoisted up in a crane and took part in covering up the sign. The new name of the restaurant is to be determined.
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