In a city where Old Austin frets about New Austin on a daily – if not hourly – basis, a piece of the past appears poised to make a return.
In a filing Friday with the Texas secretary of state’s office, the company that owns the Stubb’s live music venue and barbecue restaurants reserved Liberty Lunch – the name of a beloved downtown Austin music venue that closed nearly two decades ago – for future use.
The move came just a day after Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co. and One World Foods, the separate company behind Stubb’s-branded barbecue sauces, marinades and rubs, announced that they have settled a federal trademark lawsuit that had dragged on for nearly two years.
Terms of the agreement – except for one – weren’t released. That one detail made public requires Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co. to phase out its use of the Stubb’s name at its flagship location on Red River Street, as well as at its outposts at Mean Eyed Cat, Graceland Grocery and Lala’s Little Nugget.
Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co. hasn’t said what the new name will be or when the change will occur. But the application to the state could indicate Liberty Lunch, a moniker near and dear to longtime Austinites, is the top contender.
Before the filing with the state was even made, social media lit up Thursday with speculation that the Liberty Lunch name would be used. However, an attorney for the restaurants wouldn’t confirm that detail when contacted by the American-Statesman.
“While the name will change, it will still be the same owner/operator, same live music, same cold beer and great food for years and years to come,” Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co. said in a written statement.
Liberty Lunch was a legendary live music venue at 405 W. Second St. that shut down in 1999. The building was later demolished to make way for redevelopment. The site is now part of the Second Street District, a mixed-use project featuring shops, restaurants, offices and apartments.
In a twist, Liberty Lunch was initially set to relocate into a space alongside the Stubb’s location on Red River Street after it was displaced. That deal, however, fell through a couple years later and the move never happened.
“We looked at all these different spots,” Mark Pratz, former co-owner of Liberty Lunch, told the Statesman in a 2016 interview. “These Stubb’s boys came up to us and said, ‘Why don’t we do Liberty Lunch at Stubb’s?’”
A variety of issues derailed the move, including flooding fears, Pratz said.
“We were disappointed that it didn’t happen,” he said. “I guess after a couple of years, we sort of knew.”
The lawsuit that sparked the impending name change came after One World Foods was acquired by Maryland-based food industry giant McCormick and Co. in a $100 million deal.
The dispute arose when Stubb’s began selling Stubb’s-branded barbecue at Graceland Grocery, 8600 W. U.S. 290, and at Lala’s Little Nugget, 2207 Justin Lane. One World Foods contended the new locations weren’t covered by “an oral license” that allowed for the original Stubb’s at 801 Red River St. and a catering operation at Mean Eyed Cat, 1621 W. Fifth St., to remain in business.
The suit, according to One World Foods, was “mutually resolved.” The agreement will allow “the restaurant and venue to live on and allow the Stubb’s brand of products to expand and grow,” One World Foods said in a written statement.
“The parties ultimately agreed that going forward, One World Foods will have the exclusive ownership and right to use the Stubb’s brand,” One World Foods said. “Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Company will be phasing out its use and display of the various Stubb’s trademarks.”
Now that ownership of the name has been decided, One World said it is considering opening Stubb’s-branded restaurants of its own: “Austin is the home of Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q products. We … hope to return the Stubb’s brand to an Austin location in the future. The brand’s heritage is tied to the city and the company’s headquarters will continue in Austin.
“The founder of Stubb’s products, C.B. Stubblefield, was a cook. He loved making food, especially authentic Texas barbecue. He wanted the flavors he created to bring love and happiness to people’s lives, and our aim is to follow that lead. We’re proud to have C.B. Stubblefield’s grandsons on our team to continue that mission, and we’re confident many, many more people will love the Stubb’s family of products.”