In the latest legal action in the contentious trademark dispute between Alon Shaya, John Besh, and BRG (also known as Besh Restaurant Group), Alon Shaya has vacated plans to purchase his namesake restaurant Shaya and is instead suing for the right to his name, reports Brett Anderson.
Alon Shaya says that he has tried to buy Shaya restaurant for over a year and that the name is his “personal and culinary heritage.” He also maintains that he used the name Shaya in commerce before naming using it with the restaurant Shaya under the BRG umbrella. According to the filing, the Shaya “brand” has been “tarnished by association with the widely reported immoral, unethical, and undignified behavior of Besh, Mantilla, and BRG.”
Meanwhile, Shannon White, the new CEO of BRG, says in a statement that the company has made “multiple generous offers to sell their restaurant to Alon for a price much lower than market value” and that all those offers have been rejected. She further says that Alon Shaya is using the nola.com story as “leverage,” but that there is much more to the story and that the rest of that will be “forthcoming” in court filings.
Here’s the deal with the nola.com story. In October, Brett Anderson wrote a watershed report in which more than 25 women alleged sexual harassment against the BRG. Some of these allegations were against Besh and Octavio Mantilla. Besh stepped down from his company following the report.
Shaya spoke with Anderson about BRG for that big story and he has said that he believes he was fired from the three restaurants he helmed because of that. Those restaurants were Shaya (his James Beard Award-winning namesake restaurant), Domenica, and Pizza Domenica.
Shaya, through his company Alon Shaya LLC, applied for a federal trademark on the terms "Shaya" and "Alon Shaya.” He sent a cease and desist letter to BRG demanding that it stop using the Shaya name.
BRG responded by asking for the judge to grant that Shaya restaurant could continue to use the name. BRG also said that Shaya was first used in commerce in conjunction with the restaurant group and that through its resources and PR it became successful and widely known.
Alon Shaya, in the most recent action, says that he used the Shaya name as his personal brand years before Shaya restaurant. He also says that he developed the concept, recipes, and decor of all three restaurants will very little input from BRG.
In the interim, Alon Shaya has started Pomegranate Hospitality. He poached many of the key Shaya restaurant players from BRG, including the James Beard Award-winning sous chef, Zachary Engel. Engel was promoted to executive chef at Shaya restaurant after Alon Shaya was fired, but he left to join Alon Shaya’s new company (which currently has no restaurants under its umbrella). Shaya restaurant executive sous chef Cara Peterson also left the restaurant to join Pomegranate Hospitality. Sean Courtney, who was the Shaya restaurant GM, also left to join Alon Shaya in his new venture.