By Bill Parry
A turf war has broken out in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City, and it will take a judge to sort things out.
At issue is two bars, less than a mile apart, which use the neighborhood’s name in their monikers.
Rich Boccato, owner of a bar called Dutch Kills, is suing Dominic Stiller, his wife and a former partner for naming his restaurant Dutch Kills Centraal.
According to a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court, Boccato is seeking a name change and monetary damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, deceptive acts and practices and unjust enrichment.
Dutch Kills is a well-known cocktail lounge that opened at 27-24 Jackson Ave. in 2009. Soon after Stiller opened Dutch Kills Centraal at 38-40 29th St. last September, he received a cease and desist order from Boccato’s lawyer.
Stiller ignored the letter and filed the name Dutch Kills Centraal with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office three days later in what the suit calls “a blatant and hostile attempt to steal” the name.
“The difference is, on our application, no claim is made to the exclusive right to use Dutch Kills,” Stiller said. “Dutch Kills, the bar, does not. They should trademark Dutch Kills the Bar and disclaim exclusive use of a 400-year-old neighborhood name.”
Boccato claims Dutch Kills Centraal not only stole his bar’s name, but his business model and reputation, too.
Boccato would not comment, but his attorney, David DeStefano, said, “Unfortunately, the defendants’ use of the Dutch Kills name in connection to their business has caused a great deal of confusion among the consumer base. My clients hope to remedy any confusion and damage to their reputation that has occurred.”
The lawsuit accuses Stiller of engaging in deceptive behavior for changing the name from Windmill Tap & Grill to Dutch Kills Centraal just prior to opening. Stiller explained it was because Paul Cohen, an original partner who is also named in the case, dropped out of the project.
Stiller and his wife, Jean Cawley, are involved in the community and have an engineering business and residence two blocks from the restaurant. While Cawley advocates for safe streets in the neighborhood, Stiller serves as president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association.
“We have a strong connection to this community, care about it and will fight one person owning the name of our town,” Stiller said. “Dutch Kills was around for at least 350 years before Richard Boccato even knew what a fancy cocktail was.”
Stiller added that he would go to court armed with letters of support from civic leaders and elected officials.
“We didn’t think twice about their existence when we chose our name,” Stiller said. “Sorry, we didn’t think we needed permission from a self-interested mixologist. We think we live in a neighborhood, not in a bar.”
DeStefano claimed his client is equally invested in the neighborhood, opening his bar before the current business and building boom was underway. The attorney pointed out that Boccato opened a second business when he partnered with Rich Nieto to open Sweetleaf Cocktail Bar, at 46-15 Center Blvd.
“Mr. Boccato is an advocate of Long Island City and took a chance opening his business there in 2009 on a desolate industrial block,” DeStefano said. “Like all business owners in Long Island City, he’s excited to watch and be a part of the new development. In 2012, he even helped another bar owner open a high-end cocktail establishment a few blocks away. Not exactly behavior of a self-interested businessman.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.