'Black Olives Matter' pun sparks outrage, boosts sales for Italian restaurant

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An Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico fell under fire for punning about the Black Lives Matter movement in an advertisement on its marquee. After the sign was removed, however, customers flocked to support the restaurant.

Paisano’s, a restaurant in the city’s northeast heights neighborhood, put up an advertisement for its Ahi tuna dish that features an olive puree. The slogan was "black olives matter, try our tapenade,” and the restaurant posted a picture of the marquee in its Facebook group.

“We put up what we thought was a cute play on words, which we do commonly here at the restaurant,” Rick Camuglia, Paisano’s owner, told KOB. “We were trying to promote our pan-seared Ahi tuna with a black olive tapenade relish. And so we put ‘Black Olives Matter, Try Our Tapenade.'”

People on social media didn’t find it very cute, however. Backlash began on the restaurant’s Facebook page, where people called the sign “insensitive” and in “poor taste” because of recent incidents of violence between police and black men in the US.

“The civilized world no longer has any tolerance for your hateful public display of what passes to you as humor,” one commentator, who identified herself as a woman of color, wrote. “Young men and women are dying have a shred of humanity.”

Others on social, however, defended the restaurant’s carefree choice of signage.

“As a chef I understand that you weren’t trying to be offense (sic),” one commenter wrote, according to the Washington Post. “In our industry humour is the only thing that takes the stress away from our job. It’s unfortunate the only people who work in the trade will understand.”

Camuglia, who said that he also received upset phone calls, said that the backlash was wholly unexpected, according to KRQE.

“We didn’t think anybody would be offended by that,” he said. “It was not our intent to offend anybody.”

But also unexpected was the advertisement's effectiveness in bringing in new customers, thanks to people sympathizing with the business being targeted by outrage.

“Since Wednesday, July 13, we have been inundated with positive, supportive phone calls from the community as well as overwhelmed with business, not only from our ‘regulars,’ but from so many new customers who came from Albuquerque, surrounding cities, and even neighboring states simply to support us,” the restaurant wrote on its Facebook page, adding that some of its crew were moved to tears because of the outpouring of support.

“Many nowadays would contend that society has changed for the worse, but our experience this week has proven the opposite,” the post continued. “We have encountered so many quality people of character; salt of the earth and the bedrock of America. Awesome.”