A Vancouver-based pub and restaurant business is defending its decision to call its cannabis retail venture “Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store,” following online backlash suggesting the name is insensitive.
The Donnelly Group plans to open eight stores under the name in British Columbia and one in Ontario in April, beginning with an Ottawa location on April 1, the first day of private retail sales in that province.
The application for the Ottawa store is undergoing public notice, according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario website. The deadline for objections or submissions is Tuesday. A statement from the Donnelly Group on Monday did not confirm that municipal and provincial licenses have been secured for the planned B.C. locations.
Donnelly Group president and founder Jeff Donnelly wrote in the statement that “the ethos remains the same” as the company’s portfolio of trendy restaurants, pubs, barber shops and lounges in Vancouver and Toronto. Adding, “Be true to yourself and your neighbourhood; the people will follow.”
The ethos of the Hobo branding has become a subject of debate online. A number of people have taken to Twitter to voice confusion, and to post GIFs of the classic Canadian television series The Littlest Hobo, based on a fictional wandering German Shepherd who helps humans out of jams.
This is the only HOBO I recognize 😉 pic.twitter.com/RgVmiA7WsY
— AngeloMuscari (@SmokeTheStigmas) February 26, 2019
Obviously not the work of a savvy marketer. What an awful name.
— Brad Poulos (@bradpoulos) February 27, 2019
The debate resurfaced on Monday when Globe and Mail reporter Jameson Berkow asked his twitter following if anyone else was vaguely offended by the name choice.
Offended really the right word here? Its an embarrassingly bad name choice for sure but lets keep the millennial trigger word outta this pic.twitter.com/NJotEoQ4MM
— MD Stewart (@DocStewartMD) March 11, 2019
Not offended, I just don’t get it
— Derek (@hendyhere) March 11, 2019
Reminder: a place called Hooters still exists.
— Jason Redfern (@rodevaren) March 12, 2019
Reeks of privilege and “do you know who my dad is?”
— Fabienne (@fabienneChan) March 12, 2019
cool that we are no longer even trying to pretend the cannabis industry isn’t hugely gentrified. WTF kind of stupid, bullshit, stigma-perpetuating name is Hobo?! https://t.co/PCdVH160zB
— C. Davis (@seadavis7) March 11, 2019
“The term ‘hobo’ dates back to the 1920s, and describes a travelling worker. The word evokes a sense of wanderlust, and implies a passion for the journey over the actual, final destination. The team behind Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store fell in love with the idea of a journey, in the context of cannabis, having both literal and figurative meaning, ie: the journey one might embark on in their own mind while imbibing.
“The Hobo logo is iconography based on the ‘Hobo Code,’ a communication system that was used by these travellers and symbolizes a ‘good road to follow.’ We hope that this conveys the inclusive message that all are welcome to come in and join us, and supports Hobo’s ‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost’ tagline.”
Donnelly told Business in Vancouver that some of his favourite hotels and magazines over the past years have had ‘hobo’ in their name, or in relation to it, and the company disagrees with the negative connotation.