After hearing objections from the NAACP, the Fairfax City Council voted last night to tell a nationwide restaurant chain that the name Sambo's planned for a restaurant being built in the city is "culturally offensive."
By unanimous vote, the council agreed to send a letter to Sambo's Restaurants Inc., which has 1,070 restaurants nationwide, asking that a different name be chosen.
Those objecting to the name say it is taken from "The Story of Little Black Sambo," a 79-year-old children's book that the NAACP calls derogatory to blacks. The restaurant firm claims that Sambo's is derived from names of company officials.
J. Rayfield Vines Jr. of the Fairfax County NAACP told the council that "as a black citizon and black father, I do not want to have to go through a long explanation to my children about Sambo's restaurant."
Sambo's plans to open the restaurant at 10471 Lee Hwy. in September.
Councilman Carl Hemmer, who proposed the motion against the name Sambo's said the use of the name was an "insult to citizens who have the right to enjoy restaurants."
In the face of similar citizen opposition in 1977, the corporation changed the name of a Reston Sambo's to "Jolly Tiger." Five of the 1,070 Sambo's restaurants use the Jolly Tiger name.
Stanley Diemoz, vice president of corporate relations for the restaurant chain in Santa Barbara, Calif., said in a phone interview yesterday that the company, founded in 1957, is "pretty well set with its name," and has no plans to change it.
"in fact, we are in the process of changing the restaurants named Jolly Tiger back to Sambo's within the next year and a half," said Diemoz.
Diemoz said the name Sambo is derived from the names of the company's founders, Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett.