BALTIMORE - Standing in the middle of the restaurant she started almost 20 years ago, Denise Whiting announced she’s giving up her exclusive rights to a word that has become synonymous with Baltimore’s bee-hived, blue collar past, Hon.
“I am no longer am going to hold a registration, a trademark, on the word 'Hon' due to all the animosity and all the hatred and all the anger and passion that this little word that's felt in the hearts of so many," said Whiting.
The restaurant owner had held the trademark for almost a decade when Baltimoreans learned it had been registered, and Café Hon suffered a backlash.
The commercialization of B-More’s character struck a nerve and cut deeply into her business.
"Sales are down 25 percent. I've completely sold things, used up my IRA, put it all into the restaurant so I could continue to make payroll... expenses... so if it doesn't turn around, I will shut the doors."
Word of Hon’s freedom drew an immediate, celebratory response in the heart of Hampden.
"A victory last night in Pittsburgh and a victory tonight," said Corey Schuler who works on 36th Street.
"I'm glad that she's realized that maybe she should pay attention to the people that go in and are her bread and butter," added Karl Ford of Hampden.
Never mind that Café Hon’s owner chose to give up control of the word ‘Hon’ in front of a Los Angeles film crew that’s temporarily taken over the restaurant in a bid to help turn around its fortunes for a national audience.
Production or not, critics say Baltimore has reclaimed a piece of its heritage, and Denise Whiting is now focusing on another word---sorry.
"No one can ever steal or take or own the spirit of Baltimore, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart for all the pain that I've caused to everyone out there."
Ironically, Café Hon survived another controversy a year before the trademark became public when the city threatened to remove the large flamingo from the front of the restaurant.
At that time, the community rallied around the owner, protesting at City Hall until then-Mayor Sheila Dixon stepped in and saved the café’s signature sign.
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