BY BRYTNIE JONES
The proprietors of a Second Avenue Mexican restaurant have been threatened with court action if they don’t change its name, which the owners of an international chain of eateries claim is “confusingly similar” to theirs.
In a “cease-and-desist” letter sent earlier this month, a lawyer for the Rosa Mexicano chain wrote that Selena Rosa Mexicana, on Second Avenue near 89th Street, “unauthorized use” of a trademark is “extremely damaging” and “constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition.”
The letter says that the cuisine and drinks on offer at the two restaurants is furhter cause for confusion to potential customers. It demands that Selena Rosa Mexican stop using the name and update websites and social media accounts to reflect the change.
Selena Rosa Mexicana’s owner, Sammy Musovic, who runs the restaurant with his two sons, Sammy Jr. and Johnny Musovic, said that the March 7 letter caught him by surprise and that he is confounded as to why such a “high-end” chain would take such severe action against what he characterized as a “mom and pop shop.”
“We have Rosa Mexicano asking us to change our name and we really don’t want to do that because we’re hot right now and we want to continue to stay in business. We have 30 workers who we want to keep their jobs and be able to support their families,” Musovic said.
His son, Sammy Jr., suggested the legal action threatens the eatery’s existence.
“We’ve been catering to the neighborhood for a while now. For the last two years, we haven’t had any interruptions in our business, but our recent successes has bought us attention,” said Sammy Jr., whose family took over the restaurant two years ago from its former owner and changed its name from Cilantro to its current incarnation. “We’re hoping we can get through it because it’s putting a lot of us in financial jeopardy. We’re a family-run business but our workers are family as well, and we hope to also keep them happy.”
Rosa Mexicano’s flagship establishment, on First Avenue near 58th Street, opened in 1984. There are 16 other Rosa Mexicano locations, including three in New York. Other restaurants under the banner operate in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Dubai and elsewhere.
Armando Martado, Selena Rosa Mexicana’s manager, and Cilantro’s for years before that, said the food at the two eateries is very different.
“It doesn’t make sense. It’s a totally different name. Your name is Rosa Mexicano and ours is Selena Rosa Mexicana. Very different!” Martado said.
The Musovics said it took two years to build their brand and clientele, and to start over with advertisement, menus, logos and a website would be a huge setback. Complying with the letter’s orders would ultimately cost more than $100,000, they said.
A lawyer for Rosa Mexicano did not return messages seeking comment.
Martado and Sammy Musovic Jr. said they would reach out to their counterparts at Rosa Mexicano to try and reach some sort of compromise that permits them to keep their name.
“We have to tell them, “Look, we’re not doing anything wrong. We’re a totally different restaurant,’” Musovic said. “We just want to stay in business and continue doing what we’re good at. We’re following the American dream here, we have a place and just want to run it and be successful.”