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Stubb's restaurant, concert venue changing name to resolve trademark dispute

Stubb's restaurant and concert venue will be changing its name to settle a lawsuit with the owner of Stubb's barbecue sauce (Photos: CBS Austin)

Stubb's Bar-B-Q -- the sauce -- reached an agreement in an ongoing lawsuit with Stubb's the restaurant and music venue.

The music venue will change its name. They've filed a claim to possibly use a name that means a lot to the Austin music scene -- Liberty Lunch. The original Liberty Lunch stood for decades at 405 West Second Street.

Mark Fagan, the club listings editor at the Austin Chronicle, remembers it well. "I first started going to Liberty Lunch in the 90s," he said. "It was a great venue, everybody loved it. I got to play there a time or two and that was a big deal to me."

The Austin History Center provided CBS Austin with a black and white photo of Liberty Lunch, that was taken in the 1970s, in the early years of the building as a live-music venue. By the 1990s, Fagan says, Liberty Lunch had become more than a place where big names, like Nirvana and Sonic Youth, played. "But they also had all genres play there. They had a lot of reggae there. They'd have a lot of punk," he said.

Dan Hardick, the Austin Chronicle's events director and Love Doc, also remembers the original Liberty Lunch. He arrived in Austin in 1984. "It was in the warehouse district back when the warehouse district really felt like a warehouse district," he laughed.

Today's news -- that Stubb's restaurant might rename itself Liberty Lunch after losing a trademark battle was met with some ambivalence. "It is evocative, I think," Hardick said. "If you choose to use that name, you have to carry on that sort of vibe."

Fagan agrees; the old Liberty Lunch stood for something, in the Austin that once was.

"It was sacred in the sense to where you would see your favorite artist there and music was a big deal and Liberty Lunch was a big part of that."

A federal lawsuit filed in November of 2015 alleged that Stubb's Austin Restaurant Company overstepped a licensing agreement that allows the company to operate Stubb's-branded restaurant services.

At the center of the issue was Graceland Grocery, a small grocery store at 8600 US 290 West in Austin that also happens to serve Stubb's barbecue on the back patio.

In the lawsuit, One World Foods pointed out that the website for Stubb's Red River St. tells users to "stop in and check out our newest location at 8600 Hwy 290W Austin TX 78735."

One World Foods says they have an oral agreement from 1996 with Stubb's Austin Restaurant Company that allows for Stubb's-branded barbecue and merchandise to be sold at just the Red River location and the Mean Eyed Cat.

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