A Luger steak house in North Palm Beach?
Not so fast, said the famous Peter Luger Steak House of New York.
Peter Luger Inc. filed a federal lawsuit on May 19 claiming Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood of Scranton, Pa., is ripping off the vaunted Peter Luger name and reputation.
The trademark infringement lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, demands that Carl Von Luger and its owner, Robert Dickert, stop using the Luger name in connection with a steak house. Also, Peter Luger’s wants money damages.
“Carl Von Luger is acting as an imposter for the Peter Luger steak houses,” said Michael Elkin, a New York lawyer for Peter Luger Inc. Elkin said Carl Von Luger’s move to exploit Peter Luger’s trademarks and good will “is a deliberate effort to create a false association” between the two restaurant companies.
Hank Gonzalez, the Stuart broker for the Palm Beach County restaurant deal, said Dickert was conferring with his lawyer and could not comment at this time.
The lawsuit creates an awkward situation for the village of North Palm Beach, which signed a deal with Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood to open two eateries in a $15 million new village club house planned at 951 U.S. Highway 1.
The Peter Luger name plays a prominent role in Carl Von Luger’s branding.
For instance, the restaurant’s website is replete with references to Michelin-starred Peter Luger’s, with locations in Brooklyn and Long Island.
Carl Von Luger’s homepage touts “an age old family tradition since 1887,” borrowing the registered Peter Luger trademark featuring the date, “1887.”
Elsewhere, Carl Von Luger’s website describes a connection between its owner, Robert Dickert, and the Luger family.
But Elkin said there’s no Luger family tradition of any sort at Carl Von Luger nor a familial link between Dickert and the Luger family, as implied on Carl Von Luger’s website. “The family relation is completely made up,” said Elkin.
Elkin added the closest Dickert may have come to being linked to Peter Luger’s “is working as a dishwasher for a short period of time in the 1980s.”
Peter Luger’s said it didn’t know about Carl Von Luger until a May 4 Palm Beach Post article, even though the Pennsylvania restaurant has been open since 2011 and Peter Luger’s owners have a reputation for fiercely protecting the Luger brand from copycats.
This isn’t the first time Dickert has dabbled in the Peter Luger name, according to the lawsuit. Dickert previously operated Great Uncle Peter’s Steakhouse in Clarks Summit, Pa., which the lawsuit said was another venture “whereby Dickert attempted to trade on the name and reputation of Peter Luger.” The restaurant is now closed.
The lawsuit’s timing was pondered in the comment section of an article published in The Times-Tribune newspaper in Scranton.
“Why sue now after they’ve already been open for 6 years?” one reader wrote. Another reader responded: “Probably they didn’t worry much about one restaurant in small market area. But with plans to open another in Florida, they probably want to stop the use before he expands any further.”
In any event, the situation has caught the village of North Palm Beach off guard.
“It’s a strange turn of events. I’m not sure exactly what’s transpiring,” said Andrew Lukasik, manager of the village of North Palm Beach.
Lukasik said Carl Von Luger’s prospectus in June 2016 extolled its connection to the Luger brand and its “age old family tradition” under the legacy of the famous Peter Luger steak house.
“There’s representations of that connection throughout their submittal to the village,” Lukasik said.
The Luger brand likely was an factor in some of the decision-making by the village council, but Lukasik said he wasn’t at the village at the time and wasn’t yet clear as to how much of a factor that was.
Lukasik said the village’s lawyer is reviewing the representations that were made to the village “and what our options are,” Lukasik said. Also unclear: The village’s future with any Dickert-operated restaurant.
If you’re wondering why Peter Luger is such a big deal, Zagat has called the steak house “a monument to meat” and rated it the #1 steak house in New York for 28 years in a row.
Dickert seems keenly aware of the Luger brand strength. In a 2007 article about Uncle Peter’s in the Wilkes-Barr, Penn., Times-Leader, Dickert remarked: “We have more seafood than they do, but the name does bring people in,” Dickert said.