Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Started in Santa Barbara, California by Sam Battistone and Newell "Bo" Bohnett, it was named "SamBo's" after themselves. Soon it became tied up with the story of a dark skinned boy who liked to play with tigers. Pictures depicting this story were placed all over the restaurant.

Other Sambo's began to appear all over the country. At their height, in 1979, the chain had 1,200 restaurants in 47 states.

But some groups viewed the Sambo name as being pejorative. New stores couldn't be built because the local governments wouldn't let a racist name like that be used in their community. The company began losing money fast. They tried a couple of name changes for new outlets: The Jolly Tiger and Sam's. But nothing worked. Bankruptcy happened very quickly.

By 1982, only one Sambo's was left... the original one at 216 W. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara. And it remains open today.

For those who didn't know, while the chain went out of business, the restaurant itself never shut down!

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