Frank Spotorno, a congressional candidate for the 14th District, is calling for the owner of Isis Hookah Lounge in Astoria to change the name of his business that bears resemblance to the global terror group.
The hookah bar made headlines in 2014 when the Daily News wrote about the establishment’s name. According to the Daily News, owner Michil Gadalla said he would be willing to change the name but that the price of changing the name on permits and signage would be too expensive – he estimated it would cost $8,000 to get a new sign.
Spotorno, a Republican running for Joseph Crowley‘s seat in November, is willing to “make a significant contribution to pay for the cost of taking down this sign,” said Dan Murphy, a spokesperson for Spotorno.
“In memory of those lost in Orlando and San Bernardino, I am asking the owners to change the name of their cafe,” Spotorno said in a statement, referencing two mass shootings carried out by individuals who pledged allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). “Every morning I drive by their establishment on my way to work, I’m reminded of the senseless deaths of our fellow Americans. To honor and respect their memory, I will work with the owners to get the name changed.”
An Astoria resident, Spotorno is the founder of Park Avenue Elevator Designs, which operates in Astoria. He is also the CEO of Parkline Elevator Inspections Inc., an elevator inspection company.
“While I understand that Isis has different meanings, the name is now often associated with Islamic terrorism and the killing of innocent Americans,” Spotorno said. “The name not only offends our Queens community, but our nation.”
Murphy added that the candidate has been trying to reach out to the owner for a meeting but has not been successful. He said if the owner of Isis Hookah Lounge agrees to a name change, Spotorno will make a contribution and also ask signage companies in the community if they would be willing to help by creating a sign for a reduced price.
When QNS reached out to Isis Hookah Lounge, Reda Labib, who identified himself as an owner, said the establishment is not looking to change its name.
“I don’t need to change the name,” Labib said. “All the customers, everybody understands [that it does not stand for the Islamic State].”
Labib said the store name was inspired by Isis, an Egyptian goddess, and that he would not change the name even if the money was raised. The word “isis” is also the Greek form of an ancient Egyptian word for “throne.”
According to Britannica, Isis became one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt as a magic healer who cured the sick and brought the dead back to life. She was a mourner connected to death rituals and a role model for mothers.
Last year, the owner of Isis Nails in Forest Hills, which also opened in 2010, changed the name of her business after she was harassed by passersby and even got prank phone calls from someone who asked to join the terrorist organization, according to the New York Post.
Owner Charlene Tse told the paper that business had dropped by 30 percent before she changed the name. Tse said it cost about $7,000 to change the name on her storefront and brochures.