If there's any word that symbolizes the beautiful islands of Hawaii, it's aloha. Aloha is a rich word, with several meanings depending on the situation. If you see someone coming, it can mean "hello." If you're leaving, it can mean "goodbye." And if you're some random soulless lawyers from Illinois, it can mean "I own your cultural heritage now."
One of Hawaii's many hidden treasures is a delicious dish called poke, made from raw marinated ahi tuna. When the food became a fad a few years ago, Zach Friedlander decided to take a stab at introducing poke to the Midwest. To give his Chicago restaurant some authenticity, Friedman decided to name it "Aloha Poke Co.," again borrowing from a generous and kind culture. But Friedlander and his co-owners knew exactly how to repay the kind people of Hawaii for letting them enrich themselves on their traditions: by threatening to sue the hell out of them.
Immediately after launching his business, Friedland filed a federal trademark for the words "Aloha Poke," claiming to do so just to protect his business's brand. But when Aloha Poke Co. started branching out into a nationwide chain, several small restaurants with the words "aloha" and "poke" in them started receiving cease-and-desist threats, even restaurants located on Hawaii itself.
But now, Hawaii has finally had enough. When a small Native Hawaiian mom and pop poke shop in Anchorage revealed they had been told in May that they weren't allowed to be called "Aloha Poke Stop" anymore, it created a wave of outrage. Social media called for the boycott of Aloha Poke Co., with people dumping bad reviews of the restaurant on Yelp and Facebook. Meanwhile, a petition with over 40,000 signatures and counting is demanding that the restaurant change its name and stop pretending it has anything in common with the spiritual ideals inherent in the word aloha, unless we find out that it can also mean "douche."
The company apologized on Monday for hurting the people of Hawaii, but also added that it wasn't really a big deal, as all the family-owned business they threatened "have complied with our request to rebrand without any resulting legal action. Not a single business has closed as a result of this." Which is like a mob enforcer boasting about how few stores he's had to burn down since he started crowbarring off kneecaps as a warning first. Sadly, there's only so much Hawaiians could do about this unfairness. Sure, one of the much older "Aloha Poke" restaurants in Hawaii could sue them back, but as Hawaii state representative Kaniela Ing put it, "They probably won't, because that's not aloha."
For more weird tangents and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
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