SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The property owners and managers of Lefty O’Douls, a well-known San Francisco restaurant named after a famous local ballplayer, are embroiled in a dispute over who owns the rights to the name and to the memorabilia the business has collected over the years.
Restaurant manager Nick Bovis announced last week that the restaurant, which has been at 333 Geary St. since 1958, would be moving to a new location in Union Square after its lease was terminated by the property owners. The new location has not been announced, but the family hopes to reopen before the end of the year.
Monday, however, a spokesman for the Handlery family, which owns the building and neighboring properties, said the property owners are the owners of the restaurant and hold the legal rights to both the name “Lefty O’Doul’s” and to all the memorabilia and property inside.
They plan to close for renovations Feb. 3 and reopen under the Lefty O’Doul’s name with all the same décor, spokesman Adam Alberti said.
“The current operator is a tenant, he is a manager of the restaurant,” Alberti said. “Since 1958 the restaurant has been operated by the Handlery family under a number of different managers.”
Bovis, however, said on Monday he holds the trademark to the restaurant’s name and most of the memorabilia was given to his family personally. Much of that memorabilia has already been removed from the walls of the restaurant as it prepares for closure.
Bovis, who spoke at a press conference on Monday flanked by Mayor Willie Brown and well-known attorney Joe Cotchett, as well as by Pat O’Doul, a cousin of Lefty’s, said his father had been in negotiations to buy the restaurant in the 1960s before Lefty O’Doul’s death.
The family eventually took over management in the 1990s, and has worked to maintain its reputation as a local institution since that time, with events including an annual Christmas toy drive and a breakfast for survivors of the 1906 earthquake.
“I will not let Lefty’s be handed over to corporate greed nor will I let it die,” Bovis said, saying he planned to keep all restaurant employees on the payroll until he reopened at the new location.
The matter appears headed for court. Attorneys for Bovis said there was nothing in the restaurant’s lease to support the Handlery’s claim to ownership and the trademark had been established since at least 2008.
“We have the best lawyers around, who tragically have to waste time with this matter when everyone knows the Bovis family owns Lefty’s,” Cotchett said.
Alberti said the Handlery family disputed the trademarks, which he called “a matter for litigation,” and would defend their claim to the name.
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