Tag Archives: Trademark

How to Stage a Boycott, Hon

Most of you probably well remember the Great Hontroversy of December 2010, in which Denise Whiting trademarked the term “Hon” in various forms, and crowed about it in the media in an attempt to drum up publicity for her newly opened tacky souvenir shop, just in time for stocking stuffer season.

Ink was spilled and the fat was chewed (and not just in the restaurant), Facebook groups were formed and street protests organized, but in the end all it really amounted to was a collective “Yeah, fuck that lady.” Fast forward to June 2011: Honfest is upon us again, and Whiting has managed to piss people off even further by banning the sale of cat’s eye sunglasses and cans of hairspray and telling people that their political opinions and religious beliefs are not welcome. Everyone shall worship at the altar of HON, and all hail the mayor of Hon Town.

A visual approximation of our sentiments toward Honfest.

So we’re Skipping Honfest this year. This isn’t really news, since we’ve never actually been to any of the previous Honfests. Shitty grandpa music and overpriced Heinekens aren’t really our cup of tea, and we’re put off by anything that’s so cartoonishly self-referential and clichéd, especially when it’s organized by one of Baltimore’s most hated people. Honfest is not so much a festival to be enjoyed, but a product to be bought, paid for and consumed.

We wouldn’t call it a boycott though, and we bristle when we hear other people use the term. Most people in the modern age have a poor understanding of what a boycott actually is, let alone the skills or wherewithal to organize one successfully. Before you go calling for a boycott this weekend, or anytime, it’s a good idea to know what the keys to a successful boycott are:

  • Fight a grievous wrong. It’s difficult for any boycott to be successful without broad public support. It helps if what you’re fighting against is universally seen as an injustice. Child labor or unsafe working conditions are good grounds for a boycott. While Hon, Inc. has shown an incredible amount of hubris and alienated the community many times over, it’s hard to argue that there’s much actual injustice being done here. Some, but not much.
  • A pre-existing organizational structure. Some of the most successful boycotts in history haven’t been carried off by people coming together, they were won by people who were already together. The Montgomery bus boycott was only possible because churches and civil rights groups were already well organized, and were able to mobilize their members. Ditto with the California grape boycott, the core of which was the United Farm Workers’ Union. A Facebook group by itself is not an organization. It’s merely a tool for disseminating information among an organization.
  • Strong Leadership. At the head of every successful boycotting organization, there’s strong leadership. MLK. Cesar Chavez. Gandhi. Leading an actual boycott is a full time job. It’s not something to which you dedicate half an hour of internet time a few nights a week.
  • Dedicated foot soldiers. A true boycott of Cafe Hon, if it were to have any economic impact at all, would require people standing out on the Avenue morning, noon, and night wearing tee shirts, carrying signs, handing out literature, and making a case to the general public of the grievous wrongdoing we mentioned before. Any volunteers?
  • A manifold boycott strategy. You don’t just send an email blast, show up on a streetcorner and yell boycott. Who are you anyway, Jesse Jackson? A successful boycott requires a lot of advance planning. Even with something as small scale as a restaurant or a festival, if success is expected, there are enormous organizational, logistical, fundraising, and public relations challenges to consider. Do you just want to skip the festival, or do you want to boycott its sponsors as well?
  • An attainable set of goals. Part of that strategy should be a set of goals or reasonable demands. The idea of bringing the big bad evil corporation to its knees by crippling it economically is as cartoonish as the beads and beehives that are about to take over the Avenue. The goal of a boycott isn’t bankrupting anyone, it’s getting your target to change its behavior, e.g. integrating buses or paying farm workers minimum wage.
  • A viable alternative. Key to any boycott is not just saying “Don’t buy that” but saying “Buy this instead.” Fortunately, in the case of Cafe Hon, we’ve already got that covered.

Organizing a legitimate boycott is a lot of work, and can be a very long-term undertaking. When the faux-Hons invade the Avenue this weekend, we won’t be boycotting. We’ll be protesting in a truly homegrown Baltimore way- talking shit, holding grudges, and counting down the days to Hampdenfest.

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Filed under Baltimore Events, Chop Rants!, Festivals

Chop on the Spot: Alternatives to Cafe Hon

Since word got out on Friday that Denise Whining trademarked the term Hon, the outcry against her corny, crummy restaurant and her slimy, anti-social business practices has been nearly universal, with some of the best writing on the topic coming from sources like The Sun’s editorial page, columnist Dan Rodricks, Gutter Magazine, the Baltimore Brew, and Smile, Hon via Baltimore or Less.

We’re not going to editorialize here about how Cafe Hon has been insulting, demeaning, and exploiting Baltimoreans for years. We’ve already spent the weekend doing that in the comment sections of blogs like this one. We’re not going to point out that the real Hons are hanging around in bars that don’t need to be branded. And we’re not even going to call for a general boycott, because (as has been pointed out) we weren’t in the habit of eating or drinking there in the first place.

Nope. What we are going to do is to take this opportunity to bring your attention to three places, three nearby places, which offer better food and drink with friendlier service at lower prices.

The Dizz bills itself as “Baltimore in a bar,” and while that slogan might sound a little hokey, they do deliver. The former Dizzy Issie’s is one of the friendliest and most comfortable bars around, and even caters to your out-of-town touristy friends via the Charm City Cakes connection. Great as it is though, we like the new Dizz Grandview even better. The menu and atmosphere up at ‘Dementia Issie’s’ are direct clones of the original, and the place is an instant favorite for happy hour drinks. There’s a TV in there, but you won’t see much of it. You’ll be too busy watching the sun go down and the lights of the entire city flicker on one by one. At the first sign of snow, you can bet we’ll be strapping on our boots and walking over to Roland Avenue to spend the entire day drinking Grand Marnier and watching a blanket of snow descend on the Land of Pleasant Living. Update: Unfortunately, the Dizz Grandview closed in May 2011. The original location is still going strong.

Anyone looking for good food and drinks in Hampden would be well advised to go around the corner from the Avenue and take a table at McCabe’s. In fact, if you were to correct the myriad criticisms of Cafe Hon, the place you’d end up with would be very much like McCabe’s, and we’d venture that anyone who’s dined or drunk there would fain go hungry than to eat beneath that damn Flamingo again. The menus may be similar, with both serving up comfort food staples like crabcakes, burgers, cole slaw, etc, but the execution is worlds apart. The sophistication of the dishes at the new McCabe’s is matched and complemented by the wine and cocktail options behind the bar, and the friendly service and finished decor allow diners to feel more like adults enjoying their meals than reluctant players in some day-glo cartoon church supper farce.

A bit further up Roland but still in easy walking distance is Alonso’s/Loco Hombre . Anchoring a quaint block of shops and restaurants on West Cold Spring, Alonso’s can sometimes give you a little of that off-the-beaten-path feeling which can be hard to come by in Baltimore Bars. With two full menus under one roof and a well-earned reputation as one of the better beer bars around, Alonso’s has something to offer everyone, and they pull crowds from all walks of life. There’s no shortage of Loyola and Notre Dame students as well as TV Hill types, Roland Springs/Roland Park locals, sports fans, beer geeks and even a few refugee Hons.

Alonso’s has even recently opened up another bar on their top floor. Already known as an excellent choice for football viewing, the upstairs “Alonsoville” bar boasts 7 TV’s, and is a great setting for Ravens fans who are well beyond their collegiate loud-and-rowdy bucket-of-Miller-Lite-and-keep-em-coming days.

Of course, these three excellent choices are only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that you could have an excellent meal every night of the week in a different 36th street restaurant (like Grano, Frazier’s, Golden West, 13.5%, Dogwood, Holy Frijoles, or the brand new Alchemy) without deigning to set foot inside of Cafe Hon.

With options like that, who needs a boycott? It’s called the free market, Hon.

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Alonso’s/Loco Hombre is at 415 W. Cold Spring Lane in Roland Springs. The Dizz Grandview is at 3838 Roland Ave. on the 15th floor in Hampden. McCabe’s is at 3845 Falls Road, Hampden.

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