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Former Marine's pub name brews trouble

May. 5, 2012 - 10:55AM   |   Last Updated: May. 5, 2012 - 10:55AM  |  
Former Cpl. Nick Velez, left, plans to open Bastards, a sports bar and restaurant in Downey, Calif. Former Cpl. Calvin Spencer, right, is the general manager and head chef.
Former Cpl. Nick Velez, left, plans to open Bastards, a sports bar and restaurant in Downey, Calif. Former Cpl. Calvin Spencer, right, is the general manager and head chef. (Courtesy of Nick Velez)
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When former Cpl. Nick Velez bought a restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, he decided to name the new pub "Bastards."

It's a nod to the "Magnificent Bastards," the official nickname of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, his former infantry battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

But once a sign went up in the windows touting the new "Bastards," complaints flew around the city about its vulgarity and inappropriateness.

"It's not a curse word," Velez said in response to the controversy. "We are using it because of the ‘Magnificent Bastards.' It's what we stand for."

Velez's crew furiously worked to finish bar renovations ahead of the planned April 23 soft opening. But the date came and went as he waited for the business license from the city and permit from the fire marshal.

While trying to navigate the bureaucracy, Velez found his new business under fire.

The city recently began a "Character Counts" campaign to spur citizenship and respect. And in a town with 92 churches and 14 service organizations, the name "Bastards" rattled older residents.

"It's almost like a culture clash, when the young people are saying, ‘It's really no big deal,'" said Eric Pierce, editor of The Downey Patriot.

Some readers sent angry messages to the paper.

"Where does the name of this restaurant fit relaying a positive image for our city?" one woman wrote.

"What's next? We have two hookah parlors and now this," wrote another.

Velez bought the place when it was still the Downtown BBQ Company. Its poor reputation prompted him to redo the place.

"I'm a vet. I served my country, and I'm here to serve my community," said Velez, 25, a rifleman who deployed to Iraq with 2/4 and served four years before his discharge in 2009.

The restaurant, which touts "BBQ, sports and beer" will be run by veterans and feature military-type decor and discounts for veterans. It is expected to open in early May.

So far, the city has taken no official position on the name "Bastards."

"He will be opening it," said City Councilman Mario Guerra, who supports Bastards.

Guerra, the father of a former Marine, heard that some locals plan to picket Bastards. One woman asked what she should tell her young son the name "Bastards" means.

Guerra said to tell her son the story of 2/4 and the Bastard Marines who have fought, died and served in combat for their country.

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