I would like to qualify this little editorial with the simple fact that I am the only Colorado native working for Ultra5280. I've spent a majority of my life taking pride in the things that you can truly "only do in Colorado", and rubbing it in for friends who live elsewhere. I've watched just as many films at Red Rocks as I have concerts (well, maybe...), spent summers hiking through Chataqua and Rocky Mountain National Park, driven for hours up I-70 in the winter just to get one run in on the weekends between homework assignments, and I promise you that *no* day spent in Colorado could be completed in a better fashion than by eating dinner at Illegal Pete's. Pete's food has been a staple in my diet for as long as I can remember. While I was working my way through college, I took the bus to and from work through LoDo every day from my dorm on CU's Denver campus. On Tuesdays I worked until 12am, and would often not get back to the dorms until 2-3am depending on what bus I managed to catch - far too late to get any food from my dining hall. I had few food options that late in the evening, and Illegal Pete's became my surefire choice for dinner each week. Slowly but surely, the staff at Illegal Pete's on the 16th Street Mall began to recognize my face, and would even sometimes delay their close just so I could run through the door and beg them to make one last Queso Burrito before their register closed for the evening.
The amazingness that is Illegal Pete's does not start or stop with starving, college-aged Maddie. But grown up, post-collegiate Maddie is heartbroken by the negative words being shared regarding the monicker of my favorite burrito haunt, and i've come to take a stand. The older I've gotten, the more involved I've become in both Denver and the world around me. This deeper understanding has shed light on just how deeply rooted this restaurant is in it's community, and how important it is for us to celebrate. From serving local meat in all of their dishes, to the Greater Than Collective record label they run, Illegal Pete's is a community-based company full of like-minded thinkers who strive to make the world a better place. Their efforts to focus their time and financial resources here in Colorado benefits both their staff members and patrons in ways the average joe could never imagine. Unlike their globally franchised counterparts (who are also Colorado based, mind you), Pete's has stayed local, working to help make our Mile High state the best it can be. The fact that so many people are hung up on their choice of name opposed to the good this company brings to our community is absolutely tragic, and weighs heavily on my heart. Illegal Pete's has been a happily functioning restaurant in Colorado since 1995...that's nearly twenty years of happy people eating happy burritos without caring what the word "illegal" could accidentally ensue. Why must we now, in 2014, find the tiniest thing to nit-pick when Illegal Pete's is merely trying to expand their positive reach to another Colorado community?
No one seems to care that the restaurant's name is an homage to owner Pete Turner's beloved father who carried the same given name as he. It also seems that no one cares to educate themselves on all of the community-focused programs Illegal Pete's has to offer to the great city of Fort Collins. Instead, they've chose to focus on the sad, miscommunicated understanding of one measly little word. Illegal Pete's is more than just a name. Illegal Pete's is more than just a restaurant. Illegal Pete's is one of the few remaining local treasures that we as Coloradans are blessed to have all to ourselves, and they give back to this community in immense ways. Owner Pete Turner took his simple dream to open a place with a "fun and energetic atmosphere with music playing (and) employees having fun" and has turned it into a successful, well known food chain spread across the front range. He's created a hugely successful record label that supports some of Denver's most talented musical artists, and has expanded that support to artists worldwide through the Starving Artist Program, which feeds out-of-town bands at no cost while they travel through Colorado. Pete's also supports charities like the American Cancer Society, the Hatian Earthquake Relief efforts by the Red Cross, stepped in to help the Aurora Police Department after the movie theater shootings, the Colorado Springs Red Cross after the fires, the Boulder Flood Relief efforts and many more.
How can the people of Fort Collins look past these incredible actions of a business, and get so hung up on one adjective that has taken on a sadly negative connotation in this new era of over sensitivity? Times like these make it clear why the world's good people are growing harder to find, as their actions are overlooked to focus on petty battles instead. I urge the citizens of Colorado to lay their negative thoughts to rest, as they will do no one an ounce of good. Rather, I encourage all of you to become more informed, and choose your battles not based on new-age stigmas, but rather based on facts. I hope that this will make all of you choose to research the companies you support just a bit more, and celebrate local heroes like Illegal Pete's, who've asked for no praise for their goodness other than the simple ability to open a new location. Ultra5280 are proud Pete's lovers, and owe them a great debt for late night business meetings, hangover breakfasts, and stopping the dreaded post-UMS "hanger" episodes. We hope Pete's stays "illegal" forever, and hope that Fort Collins can come to love them just as much as we do.
If you'd like to learn more about Illegal Pete's, please read these articles on their namesake, as well as "Seven Facts You Didn't Know" right here: