A Restaurant, Named Woke, Is Getting The Controversial Treatment

In today's tense political climate, many people are cautious about what they say to avoid "cancel culture." However, what happens when the culture differs from the one you grew up in, and you unknowingly ignite a firestorm of controversy? That's precisely what restaurant owner Carmen Quiroga found out the hard way after announcing her new breakfast restaurant, Woke Breakfast & Coffee (via CT Insider). Located in Coventry, Connecticut, the new breakfast spot was named based on the idea, "Wake up and have a coffee," according to Quiroga. Despite a sunny side egg serving as the "o" on the restaurant sign, some community members missed the meaning and expressed outrage.

The word "woke" has a long-standing history within the African American community. It captures the idea that one should stay conscious of unjust behaviors toward people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or other social identifiers. The idea of being awake in this way emerged as early as the 1920s, and "woke" specifically referenced the concept since at least the '60s (via VOX). The start of the Black Lives Matter movement helped expand the notion to include a focus on police misconduct like excessive force.

However, among some conservatives, wokeness represents excessive political correctness. Those individuals use "woke" sarcastically, and some Republican politicians turned it into a label for political opponents. Quiroga, who immigrated from Mexico, said she was utterly unaware of these associations. But that backdrop underscores the outrage at the restaurant.

Wake up and smell the controversy

Coventry has been described as politically purple, and over previous general elections, voters have favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden over Trump, per CT Insider. And opinions were split here as well. After the citizens of Coventry caught wind of Woke's name, the town's open forum on Facebook became flooded with comments from defenders and detractors. So much commotion was caused that the administrator expressed disappointment, stating, "if you are that close-minded that you can't grasp that the name is referring to the fact that it is a breakfast establishment and nothing more, then just keep that to yourself and move on." She even threatened to remove comments.

With so much backlash, why didn't the owner change the name? By the time Carmen Quiroga caught the issue, she had already spent thousands of dollars on equipment and signs bearing the name. Although people were divided over the word, all the attention may have ultimately worked in the restaurant's favor. The Coventry Republican Town Committee concluded that the name Woke had no underlying political motivations and urged people who might have been put off by the name not to boycott (via Boston.com). Once the doors opened, the place was packed and received glowing reviews on its food.

Overjoyed about the feedback she'd received, the owner stated, "A lot of people came to support. They say, 'We're going to be here every day. We're going to come to get coffee.' They like the space, the food."