The latest in the Lefty O'Doul's saga, following a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court, is that landlord Jon Handlery has now produced a letter from 2001 that his reps say is "damning evidence" that proprietor of 19 years Nick Bovis and his associates never claimed ownership of the interior contents of the bar and its collection of memorabilia.
Also, Bovis announced today, via his attorney Joe Cotchett, that he had filed his own lawsuit in federal court, claiming trademark infringement by the Handlerys.
At issue is the considerable amount of kitsch and memorabilia, much of it baseball-themed or relating to the career of San Francisco Seals pitcher and manager Lefty O'Doul himself, that Bovis summarily removed and put in storage last weekend in an effort to claim that it, along with the business, rightfully belong to him. Bovis announced last week that after the February 3 termination of his lease with Handlery for the space at 333 Geary Street the home of the bar since 1958 he would be relocating it and all of its contents elsewhere in the neighborhood. In the text of the lawsuit, which both demands the return of this property and asks for a temporary restraining order against Bovis and his family, the Handlerys say that the fixtures and memorabilia in the bar are "irreplaceable" and are "a critical component of the distinctive atmosphere and sentimental charm of Lefty O'Doul's that is so beloved by its loyal customers around the world."
Now, according to Handlery rep Sam Singer, the Handlerys' attorney has dug up a letter written by Gracia Bovis, the treasurer for the Bovis's management concern JGX Inc., to the City of San Francisco's Tax Collector's office in 2001 stating "JGX corporation does not own the personal property contained within [333 Geary Street]. The personal property was acquired from the previous owner, by the Landlord of the Handlery Hotel Inc. in 1998." The letter was meant to absolve JGX of responsibility for paying property taxes on the bar and its contents.
In a court filing Friday pursuant to the Handlerys' lawsuit, attorney Richard C. Darwin writes, "In light of this explicit admission regarding the exact issue before this court, JGX’s recent claims of ownership over the property inside Lefty O’Doul’s smacks of bad faith."
Bovis, with pal Willie Brown in tow along with his own attorney, held a press conference on Monday in which he ceremonially removed a plaque from over the bar's door displaying horseshoes from several police horses who had their retirement ceremonies at the bar, which has become an SFPD custom. Bovis also made clear at the press conference that part of his claim to the Lefty O'Doul's name stems from the fact that he trademarked it in 2004 and now sells Lefty O'Doul's brand Bloody Mary mix in stores, among other products. Bovis also says that he owns the liquor license, which could actually pose a problem for Handlery the license, which you can see here, was transferred to Bovis in 1998 from a Frank O'Doul.
On Friday, Cotchett announced an afternoon press conference at his Burlingame offices to discuss the federal lawsuit he's filed on Bovis's behalf, claiming that the Handlerys are infringing on Bovis's registered trademark. In his release, he states, "According to the complaint, at no point during the lease negotiations [in 1997/98] did Handlery Hotels Inc. indicate that they owned the trademark for Lefty O’Doul’s or the memorabilia that existed in Lefty O’Doul’s. In 2004, JGX, Inc., owned by the Bovis family, trademarked the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. It is only in the last several months that Handlery publicly claimed that they owned the name Lefty O’Doul’s."