LONG ISLAND CITY — What's in a name?
Popular cocktail joint Dutch Kills is in a food fight with newcomer pub Dutch Kills Centraal over its name, saying the similar moniker is causing patrons to think the two Long Island City bars are affiliated, according to court documents.
Mixologist Richard Boccato, who opened the bar Dutch Kills at 27-24 Jackson Ave. five years ago — known for its high-end cocktails chilled with custom-cut ice — filed suit in Brooklyn Federal Court last week against the owners of Dutch Kills Centraal, a bar and restaurant that opened at 38-40 29th St. last fall.
Boccato says he has been "contacted on countless occasions by confused patrons and potential patrons" who think the two bars are affiliated, according to the trademark infringement lawsuit, which was first reported by the New York Post.
But Dutch Kills Centraal owner Dominic Stiller, a local resident who also heads the Dutch Kills Civic Association, says the name of his pub was a reference to the neighborhood it's located in, not an attempt to copy anyone.
"We used it descriptively, Dutch Kills Centraal as a descriptive town name," Stiller said. "In our opinion, Dutch Kills is our neighborhood — it's not a bar.
"We bought a house in Dutch Kills. We didn’t buy a house in a bar."
But Boccato's lawsuit argues that "Dutch Kills" has come to be publicly associated with his bar, and that he developed common law rights to the name when he started using it five years ago.
The suit, which seeks monetary damages and a ban on using the moniker, accuses the new bar of having engaged in "deceptive behavior" by originally marketing itself under the name Windmill Tap & Grill while it was under construction, then opening in September as Dutch Kills Centraal.
Boccato's lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to Dutch Kills Centraal on Oct. 8 — shortly after the new bar opened — objecting to their use of the moniker, according to court documents.
The court papers claim that Stiller then filed a trademark application for "Dutch Kills Centraal" a few days later in "a blatent and hostile attempt to steal" the name.
But Stiller countered that he only abandoned the Windmill name because of a change in management, and the name and social media pages associated with it were closely tied to the old management.
He also says his pending trademark application is for the entire phrase "Dutch Kills Centraal," while Dutch Kills bar is trying to trademark "Dutch Kills" — a move that he thinks would be damaging to the growing neighborhood's identity.
"If we do lose, no other place will be able to open in this town with the term. It will severely restrict the growth and the benefit of our neighborhood," Stiller said.
Boccato's trademark is also still pending, according to lawyer David DeStefano, who said his client's objection is only to the use of the term in connection to the bar and restaurant industry, not the term in general.
"It's not claiming ownership over a neighborhood, it's not at all," he said. "It's only the use of that term in connection to its industry."