Chef Laurent Tourondel has won back the rights to the “BLT” restaurant moniker after a protracted legal battle with his former business partner Jimmy Haber, Crain’s reports. Tourondel and Haber co-founded the lucrative BLT Restaurant Group, which comprises 20 restaurants, including 11 BLT Steaks and three BLT Burgers. Tourondel left the Group in March of 2010 to open restaurants of his own. The split was complicated. Initial reports suggested that Haber would retain control of most of the existing restaurants and Tourondel would get to use the acronym “BLT” (short for “Bistro Laurent Tourondel”) for new restaurants. They share control of restaurants within hotels.
But when Tourondel opened LT Burger in Sag Harbor, NY, Haber sued. He alleged that the restaurant’s menu and decor were too close to those at existing BLT restaurants, and so constituted trademark infringement. In court, Haber cited the $7 Twinkie milkshake as a particularly egregious violation; the BLT Burger menu lists a “Twinkie Boy” shake with the same ingredients and price as the one at LT Burger. The menus also look alike: retro sans serif fonts, a burnt-orange-on-cream color palette.
This weekend’s partial settlement allows Tourondel to open new restaurants with the name “BLT,” starting with BLT American Brasserie, opening in Times Square this fall. Neither Tourondel nor Haber are allowed to open new outposts of existing chains BLT Steak and BLT Burger. Other elements of the suit, including the rights to recipes Tourondel developed while at BLT Restaurant Group, have yet to be determined.