The Precinct Sued By Cincinnati Restaurateur

Categories: Restaurant News

preinctbar.jpg
The bar at the Precinct, with Cards memorabilia. | Nancy Stiles

Just when things were looking up for the Precinct (1900 Locust Avenue; 314-588-8899), it has been dealt struck another blow. Cincinnati restaurateur Jeff Ruby is suing Jim Edmonds and Mark Winfield's company MWS, LLC for use of the name "The Precinct." As Edmonds and Winfield have told us and many other publications, the name comes from the fact that the actual police precinct headquarters are moving in next door. Ruby doesn't think so -- he think it has something to do with his high-end steak house called Jeff Ruby's Precinct.

See also: The Precinct Launches Revamped Menu

Ultimately, it will be up to the court to decide. But let's review the claims, shall we?

The Precinct was Jeff Ruby's first restaurant, opened in 1981. His venerable stable now includes Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Carlo & Johnny, Jeff Ruby's Waterfront and a Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse in Louisville. The name comes from the turn-of-the-century building's former use as Cincinnati Police Patrol House Number 6.

"[It's] frequently recognized as having Cincinnati's best steaks, seafood and service. This consistent high level of quality and overall guest experience over three decades has endeared Precinct to celebrities, businesspeople, families and loyal diners alike," the website boasts.

The initial claim, filed November 25, 2013, says "The PRECINCT® has been acclaimed by both national media outlets and those in the culinary industry as one of the highest regarded and recognized restaurants in the United States." Nothing against that Precinct, but saying it's nationally recognized is probably a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, the suit then goes on to allege that not only are Winfield and Edmonds well aware of how awesome Jeff Ruby's Precinct is, but they "knowingly adopted a nearly identical trademark in order to confuse the public into the mistaken belief that it is affiliated, franchised, sponsored by, or otherwise associated with the iconic PRECINCT® restaurant." (Emphasis ours.)

"I don't have anything disparaging to say about their restaurant," MWS, LLC lawyer John Palowski tells us. "From what I can tell, it's a very high quality steak house. My clients are trying to be a neighborhood pub, so were kind of at a loss for how they think they can establish confusion between their brand and what my folks are doing. It makes no sense to me."

There was an attempt to bring the Jeff Ruby brand to St. Louis in 2010 with another Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, but it only lasted a few months. Despite this, the suit claims that Ruby advertises his brand in the St. Louis area. (But where?) Plus, St. Louisans can totally buy Jeff Ruby gift certificates on the Jeff Ruby website, so, there's that.

"Basically what they're alleging is that my folks are trying to trade on their name, and nobody in St. Louis knows who they are!" Palowski says. The suit goes on to delinate how Edmonds played baseball in Cincinnati and became "intimately" aware of Ruby's Precinct.

MWS, LLC and Palowski's firm responded yesterday, April 22, to the suit by demanding a jury trial. It also denies the charges.

"There is no substantial risk of confusion between Defendant and Plaintiff's enterprise, especially given the differing cuisine and target audience of their customer base, as well as Defendant's sports marketing centered on its namesake, Jim Edmonds," the answer reads.

"Why would you trade on some guy named Ruby when you have one of the most beloved players in St. Louis?" Palowski asks us. "It makes no sense to me."

Jeff Ruby did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

Here are the complaint and the answer:

Precinct Complaint

Precinct Answer

Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at nancy.stiles@riverfronttimes.com or follow her on Twitter.




Location Info

The Precinct

1900 Locust Avenue, St. Louis, MO

Category: Restaurant


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21 comments
Pattie O'Furniture
Pattie O'Furniture

If "The Precinct" name is that important to Jeff Ruby then why isn't he suing the Precinct in Sommerville, Ma, or the one that opened in Boston, or in Australia, or Tampa, Fl or anywhere else in the world fir that matter?? Idiots

Deb Woods
Deb Woods

Having now read the whole back story in the Post & STL Biz Journal I only agree MORE that this was outright theft of a proprietary business idea by Edmonds. Read it and see, folks. And I for one wish the "hoosiers of STL" would have supported Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse at River City Casino as I had the best meal of my life there. I still dream about those mashed potatoes with truffle oil & blue cheese....and a steak that was truly a carnivorgasm on a plate!

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

sure we do. a lot of baseball teams we beat every october.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

mmmmm... i think he would have to show the st. louis one is somehow damaging his business.

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

As if Cincinnati is the only city with precincts. Smh. Money grab. is he gonna sue Ruby Tuesday's next because it has "Ruby" in the name?

Steve Journey
Steve Journey

Zac st louisians are idotic hoosiers that do not know what is east of illinois

Deb Woods
Deb Woods

Just because people in STL never leave STL and don't recognize it as "Jeff Ruby's" doesn't mean it isn't a recognized trademark. Would love to hear THAT argument (yours) in Court: "Your Honor, the people of STL are just too clueless & local to realize the impact of Jeff Ruby's name elsewhere in the Country. They didn't even support his steakhouse when it came to STL so see - this Precinct thing just CANT BE a trademark infringement!" Der. Der. Der.

Pattie O'Furniture
Pattie O'Furniture

The logos look similar??? When did Cincinnati get an Arch??? Rediculous

Jeffrey Nunn
Jeffrey Nunn

National chain? They're in two cities, Cinci and Louisville (only one location), which are less than a two hour drive apart. That just barely qualifies them as a regional chain. The vast majority of people in St. Louis don't have a clue who Jeff Ruby is and have never heard of The Precinct which is evident by the fact that his high end steakhouse closed here in less than a year. In fact, every one of Ruby's restaurant ventures outside of Cinci have failed with the exception of the Louisville location. Now, that's not to say they won't possibly win the lawsuit because of the trademark, but (and I'm no lawyer) I think they're going to have to prove that their brand is nationally recognized to do so. I don't see that happening.

Andrew Bell
Andrew Bell

I love when RFT asks us what we think, and then tells us what to think.

Mr_H
Mr_H

Trademark law essentially requires Ruby to sue anyone using a similar name in a similar enterprise. If he doesn't make an effort to defend the Precinct name against just about any type of restaurant, an argument could be made that he has no trademark protection whatsoever and the name "Precinct" would be considered public domain. This is an extreme oversimplification of the law but it does explain why Ruby is doing this. For all intents and purposes, he has no choice.

Deb Woods
Deb Woods

Actually I agree with the lawsuit. Jeff Ruby's is a National chain and people could assume the one here is a Jeff Ruby's Precinct. Trademark people - it matters when you are a business person.

Jim House
Jim House

What a bunch of sue happy a**holes.

Mark Brennan
Mark Brennan

Frivolous BS. The suit, not this article. ;)

Greg Boyle
Greg Boyle

Its a money grab because hes famous

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