Restaurant Naming, Branding, And Doing Business In Westchester

The crew at Q in Port Chester

Puerto Rican cuisine at Don Coqui

There are several important decisions to make when starting up a new business, but perhaps none with longer-lasting implications than the name. Whether it’s punny, creative, or simply straight forward, the name of a business may very well decide how it is perceived by its customers. That’s why we took particular interest in a couple of recent legal disputes in Westchester (one with a rather unconventional resolution) regarding restaurant naming rights.

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Jeffrey and Jennifer Kohn, the nine-year owners of Q Authentic Barbeque Restaurant & Bar in Port Chester, sensed a problem during the summer when they started receiving congratulations on a new Stamford, Connecticut restaurant that wasn’t theirs.  They realized that somebody else was using their name. As it turns out, “Bar Q” had opened just 10 miles away, serving the same barbecue cuisine as Q Restaurant under an oddly similar name. After a slew of legal threats, they came up with an easy alternative to the problem. Rather than duking it out in court, the Kohns used the help of Stuart Slotnick, a close friend and attorney, to create a new name and logo for the Stamford restaurant.

“I said they should be ‘Bar B-Q’ instead of ‘Bar Q’ because it plays off the food and the bar scene they’ve tried to build,” said Slotnick. “Once we gave them the drawings, they threw up their hands and agreed to rebrand.”

With some willingness to work it out, both sides managed to avoid a costly legal battle and create a favorable outcome. But things haven’t been as easy for Don Coqui restaurants in New Rochelle and White Plains.

Don Coqui owner Jimmy Rodriguez has put most of his life into the reputation of his Puerto Rican restaurants, so it’s no surprise that he has a bone to pick with a Queens restaurant operating under the same name. Unlike the owners of Q Restaurant, Rodriguez is carrying out legal action aiming to force the Astoria restaurant to rebrand. His complaint claims that the Don Coqui restaurant in Queens has locked him out of the doncoqui.com Web domain, hurting the original restaurant ‘s marketing abilities.

“Their use of the name ‘Don Coqui’ has caused ongoing damages to the reputation and the value of the restaurants,” Rodriguez said. “I look forward to the day when those damages will be addressed.”

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The case is currently pending before a judge in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Evidently, there’s more to a business’ name than one might think. For some business owners, it connotes a reputation that took years, or even a lifetime, to create—so it’s no wonder why these types of disputes can get heated. But it doesn’t always have to get ugly.

A little bit of creativity and cooperation can go a long way.

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