Trouble in cheese fry paradise: Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Morning News reported this morning that Snuffer's patriarch Pat Snuffer has been ordered by a judge not to open his new Lower Greenville restaurant Pat's Burger & Cheddar Fries, pending a hearing later this month.
For anyone who hasn't kept up with the Snuffer's saga, here's a brief recap: Snuffer's filed for bankruptcy back in the spring, and a few months later Firebird Restaurant Group (El Fenix, Meso Maya) acquired its debt, effectively becoming its lender. Then last month it was announced that Firebird was taking over operations of all Snuffer's locations — well, all of them except the OG Lower Greenville location, which has been under construction since the spring and was not a part of the original bankruptcy filing.
A press release issued the same day from Pat Snuffer's camp proclaimed that he would maintain control of the Lower Greenville location and transform it into the "individually owned and operated" Pat's Burger & Cheddar Fries (which basically sounds like the same concept as Snuffer's with a different name).
Now, Firebird has slapped Snuffer with a lawsuit, proclaiming that "after running Snuffer's into financial ruin, Pat Snuffer has orchestrated a last-minute, desperate, and unlawful conspiracy with the other Defendants for the purpose of launching a new and substantially identical chain of restaurants under the name 'Pat's Burger & Cheddar Fries' — based on the goodwill, business opportunities, intellectual property, and confidential and proprietary information that is Snuffer's." The lawsuit further claims that just the name of the restaurant is a "blatant rip-off" of everything that the Snuffer's chain embodies, and will cause "massive confusion."
Commenters on the DMN piece seem to be split, with one saying, "I'm no IP lawyer but I don't think they can prevent Pat from operating a restaurant that sells 'burgers' or cheddar fries; that's just stupid. Snuffers never had a trademark on the term burgers or cheddar fries." Another claims, "He'll lose this. Firebird will claim trademark infringement." Of course, what really matters is what the judge has to say — for now, he's signed a temporary restraining order to stop Pat Snuffer from opening his restaurant, pending a hearing later this month.
UPDATE: Firebird's PR group sent over copies of a statement from Firebird head Mike Karns and the temporary restraining order that was filed. Do head over to CraveDFW to read a statement from Pat Snuffer's camp; in summary, Pat Snuffer says they deny all allegations made by Firebird and will forge ahead, and Firebird says they will "not accept anyone opening a look alike Snuffer's Restaurant."
Statement from Firebird's Mike Karns by Eater Dallas
Firebird's Temporary Restraining Order Against Pat's Burger & Cheddar Fries by Eater Dallas
· Following Snuffer's Suit, Judge Delays Ppening of Pat's Burger and Cheddar Fries Pending Hearing [DMN Biz Beat Blog]
· It's Snuffer's V. Snuffer as Chain Sues to Stop Pat's Burger From Reopening at Original Lower Greenville Spot [DMN Biz Beat Blog]
· More Snuffer's coverage [-EDFW-]
[Photo and logo: Pat's Burger & Cheddar Fries/Facebook]