Barbecue Brawl

Austin's legendary Stubb's Bar-B-Q may transform into the new Liberty Lunch

Austin's legendary Stubb's may transform into the new Liberty Lunch

Stubb's Austin
Stubb's is changing its name. Stubb's Austin/Facebook

In the wake of a contentious trademark lawsuit, the four Stubb’s Bar-B-Q locations in Austin soon may adopt the name of an iconic but long-gone live music venue.

Although Stubb’s isn’t confirming it, all signs point to the barbecue restaurant chain rebranding itself as Liberty Lunch, borrowing the name of a legendary music venue in downtown Austin that closed in 1999.

On Friday, July 7, Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co., which owns the four local barbecue joints, filed paperwork with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office to reserve the business name Liberty Lunch.

Back in January, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the Liberty Lunch trademark to Stubb’s, CultureMap has discovered. The owner of Liberty Lunch appears to have lost rights to the trademark after the venue shut down.

The filing with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office came one day after Stubb’s settled a court case spawned by a trademark dispute between the restaurant company and Austin-based One World Foods Inc., which sells Stubb’s-labeled barbecue sauces.

In 2015, Sparks, Maryland-based McCormick & Co., a $4.4 billion seller of seasonings and sauces, bought One World Foods for $100 million. Later that same year, One World Foods took Stubb’s to court over use of the Stubb’s brand name beyond the original location on Red River Street and a second outpost in Southwest Austin.

The Stubb’s restaurant company operates four locations in Austin. The best-known location is the revered restaurant and live music venue on Red River. Stubb’s also has eateries at Mean Eyed Cat on West Fifth Street, Graceland Grocery on U.S. Highway 290, and Lala’s Little Nugget in Austin’s Crestview neighborhood.

In court documents, the Stubb’s restaurant company argued that its 1996 agreement with One World Foods regarding use of the brand name — an agreement that wasn’t put down on paper — didn’t limit its ability to use the Stubb’s name for restaurants, music venues, catering operations, and entertainment offerings.

The court case dragged on until Thursday, July 6, when the two sides settled the lawsuit. Under the settlement, McCormick gained exclusive rights to the Stubb’s name — prompting the Stubb’s restaurant company to seek a new moniker. One World Foods initially picked up rights to the Stubb’s brand in 1991.

In a statement, One World Foods says: “While terms of the agreement are confidential, it is important to note this was a mutual resolution that allows the restaurant and venue to live on and allow the Stubb’s brand of products to expand and grow.”

Lou Reyes, an attorney for the Stubb’s restaurant company, tells the Austin Business Journal that his client will phase out the Stubb’s name.

“The important part, really, is that it will still be the same owners, the same managers, the same cold beer and live music and great food for decades and decades to come,” Reyes says.

The Stubb’s restaurant company apparently had anticipated the possibility of settling the lawsuit, as it filed for the Liberty Lunch trademark in February 2016 — three months after One World Foods launched its legal battle.

While Stubb’s is setting the table for its new Liberty Lunch identity, One World Foods is signaling that it might slap the Stubb’s name on at least one Austin restaurant.

“We intend to explore new restaurant opportunities and hope to return the Stubb’s brand to an Austin location in the future. The brand’s heritage is tied to the city and the company’s headquarters will continue in Austin,” One World Foods says.