EVERETT — The “Soup Nazi” might have been funny in a November 1995 “Seinfeld” episode, but not in real-life Everett in 2021.
Andrew Ho was planning to open a new restaurant under the name The Soup Nazi Kitchen on Hoyt Avenue downtown within a month. He put a sign up Tuesday afternoon. The sign mounted over the doorway featured a stern-faced female cartoon character holding a ladle and a whip.
By Wednesday morning, someone had spray-painted curse words near the door and shot out windows with a pellet gun.
And social media exploded with angry comments.
Wednesday morning, Ho was downplaying the outrage.
But by late afternoon, he was convinced to take Nazi out of the name. A man he hired climbed a ladder and blacked out the offending word with a paintbrush.
“It created too many problems and my neighbors were getting scared. It was a safety issue,” Ho said. He also had heard from the local Jewish community.
Ho, a 46-year-old Chinese American, previously owned Alive Juice Bar in Shoreline for about a decade until he closed it in October. As in the legendary “Seinfeld” episode about the “Soup Nazi,” it was notorious for abrasive treatment of customers. Ho moved from the Seattle area for Everett’s downtown vibe six months ago.
For his new venture, he played off the “juice Nazi” name some customers had given him at the old place.
He is also re-opening his Alive Juice Bar in the same Everett building, along with a yoga studio. He said he has invested $100,000 in the new businesses so far. He also had 100 red “The Soup Kitchen Nazi” T-shirts made to sell for $20 each.
Rachel Kort, rabbi of Temple Beth Or in Everett, said the use of “Nazi” and the website’s imagery, including a cartoon character in a uniform reminiscent of a S.S. officer, made light of the Holocaust.
“It really diminishes and makes light of the horrors of the Holocaust,” Kort said. “The Nazi regime killed 6 million Jews and millions of others.”
Those tragedies are recent history. A member of Temple Beth Or is a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was murdered in the death camps, Kort said.
“This isn’t the community that we’re trying to make,” she said.
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, lists hate symbols used by white supremacists and other hate groups. The website cartoon did not exactly match any of the listed hate symbols, but they are similar ,with an eagle on the cap akin to the Nazi eagle and a skull evoking death.
Miri Cypers, the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest regional director, said she knew the restaurant name referenced the “Seinfeld” episode that made the term “Soup Nazi” famous. But using “Nazi” in a restaurant name contrasts poorly with the people who starved to death during the Holocaust, she said.
“From first glance, we definitely have a lot of concerns with the name and what it evokes historically,” Cypers said.
On Wednesday mid-morning, Cody MacDougall of the Downtown Everett Association offered to cover the graffiti.
Some people walking by the sign Wednesday, before “Nazi” was painted over, were offended.
“It’s not right. It’s not OK. Why would they think that’s OK?” said Carly Robertson of Everett. “I don’t think I’m going to go there.”
“I don’t want him here,” Sara-Lynn Larkin said. “This is 2021. Even playing Nazi as a joke, it’s not a joke anymore.”
In a statement, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said the city is limited in what it can do in a situation like this.
“The City of Everett is a Safe City and strives to be inclusive and welcoming for all residents and visitors,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have greatly restricted the City’s authority to regulate the wording of signs and largely prohibits the City from banning signs based on the hateful or offensive wording in that sign.”
In previous cases where a business or restaurant has used Nazi imagery or war artifacts, the ADL has contacted the owner to meet with them. Cypers said the goal is to explain why the symbols are hurtful to Jews and other minorities targeted during World War II and those who continue to be victims of racism.
“Given the fact that the Nazi regime committed genocide against the Jewish people and so many others, that kind of language belongs in history books and in context of history,” Cypers said.
In a post on his blog, Ho wrote that he wanted to be provocative with the name and that “White supremacy is not on the rise. Nationalism — wrongly conflated with White supremacy — everywhere is on the rise …”
When asked if he thinks the original use of “Nazi” will hurt business once he opens, Ho said, “I have no idea.”
He doesn’t plan to sell the T-shirts.