Bar owner says his signs are free speech, not racism

People come from all over to eat the fresh, fried seafood and drink a cold beer at this small bar on a rural highway at the Paulding-Haralson county line.

But some people just drive by to read the sign outside. It says something different every once in a while, depending on what bar owner Patrick Lanzo has on his mind. Politics are frequent topics, and former President Bill Clinton and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have been targeted in the past.

"We're strictly about free speech," Lanzo says, "but we're labeled racist."

The current sign, which has been outside the Georgia Peach Museum and Restaurant for about six months, takes a critical stand against President Barack Obama's healthcare plan.

But it's not just a simple message. It contains an "n" word many see as a racial slur. Find that offensive? Well just keep on driving, says Lanzo, who has run the bar for 22 years.

Lanzo contends the word is only labeled "racist" when it's uttered by a white person. Similarly, he says white people referring to themselves as "crackers" aren't labeled racists.

Racist or not, it's a word Lanzo uses often. Many of the statements on his signs have included the word.

"We're not at all racist," says his 19-year-old daughter, Brandi. "We have black people come here all the time. We're not ugly people."

The other side of the sign takes a shot at bank chain that Lanzo says gave his 8o-year-old mother a loan she isn't able to pay.

Lanzo says a few years ago, he joined the NAACP and marched for gay rights in Cobb County. Pictures of Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama hang on the walls of the bar. There are also images of monkeys, racist cartoons and items associated with Ku Klux Klan, including a seated mannequin wearing a hood.

Out back behind the bar, a few horses take up a small portion of the acres of pasture. In 2005, the space was the site of Hammerfest, an annual gathering of self-proclaimed racists.

"I flew the Israeli flag," Lanzo says, with a laugh. As the skinheads gathered behind the bar, dozens of NAACP members marched in protest along the other side of Ga. 120.

In 1999, state lottery officials decided to pull their ticketing equipment from the bar because of Lanzo's actions. But the Cobb County native insists he's not an extremist.

"It's fine that people disagree with me," he said.

Even before he could sell alcohol, Lanzo put his business on the map by having nude dancers. Nude dancing wasn't allowed in Paulding, but Lanzo was able to get a business permit for his "museum." At the time, he called it "in-your-face art."

Lanzo says he asked frequently if he's against Obama because of the President's race. He didn't vote for him, but says that had nothing to do with race.

"I don't give a ratt's butt about his race," Lanzo said.

A good healthcare plan, Lanzo says, is one that would give average citizens the same type of coverage provided to elected officials with taxpayers' money.

"Don't give me half or a third of what I'm paying for you," he said.

A registered voter, Lanzo says he isn't a Democrat or a Republican, and thinks both parties should be tossed out.

Until then, he says he'll continue sharing his thoughts on his outdoor sign. Many of the previous phrases Lanzo has put on the sign can be seen on the bar's Web site,

An expansion is on the way that will more than double the bar's size and add a larger patio. Eventually, the big screen television will be moved to the back room of the bar.

"Then when families are here, the kids can be up in the front room," he said.

The Georgia Peach is open seven days a week, for lunch or dinner. Bar staples like burgers and wings are available, but Lanzo says the fresh seafood he gets from Louisiana is the best thing on the menu. Even the menus themselves make a statement. The covers are all different, and may say "We cater to hangins" or may depict black monkeys in a tree.

Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest at the bar on Buchanan Highway, and Lanzo says no one is ever turned away.

"Everybody's welcome," he says. "You can call me a ‘cracker' and that's fine."