BRADENTON -- Paul Kotlarczyk has been through war to protect the name of his bar on Old Main: The Distillery Tavern.
It's his own Whiskey Rebellion that has reached the point where, after blood, sweat and beers, it's time to pour one out to the Distillery's name with a celebratory funeral.
The Distillery, 450 12th St. W., will host a RIP Street Party starting at 5 p.m. April 12, to celebrate the end of the Distillery and to the new beginnings of the Double Barrel Tavern.
The party will feature band Offshore Riot, giveaways and $3 Bacardi Superior and Bacardi Oakheart.
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"It's kind of unfortunate having to change the name, and somebody wants it more than I do," Kotlarczyk said Monday.
The longtime Bradenton bartender said there are about six other Distillery businesses across the country, whether a tavern, bar or restaurant. And one group that wants the name bad, he said, is The Distillery sports bar, based in Rochester, N.Y.
The New York sports bar is quite different from Bradenton's Distillery, serving a full line of barbecue food and offering its own sauce line, founded Dec. 11, 1980. When reached by phone Monday, Distillery Restaurant Franchising Corp. President Peter Psyllos said the name issue "is within our federal copyright infringement."
Psyllos would not comment about a potential Florida location for his chain, while court records hint of "potential franchisees in Florida," but he wants to keep his options open.
"We like to keep that option available to us and not encounter any difficulties of a competition for the name," he said.
Psyllos's Distillery Restaurant Franchising Corp. filed a trademark infringement suit Oct. 4, 2013, against Kotlarcyzk's Redneck Surfers Inc. for the Distillery name, according to court documents filed with U.S. District Court in Tampa. The Rochester company copyrighted the name and theme in 1998 while trademarking the name in 2011 for merchandise, food, beer and spirits names, accord
ing to court documents. Bradenton's Distillery registered its name in 2003 in Florida, according to state documents.
The case was settled and dismissed Jan. 31, according to court records, and as a result, the Bradenton bar is getting a new name.
Kotlarczyk tried to keep the new name under wraps, but a fictitious name filing with the state Division of Corporations showed the Holmes Beach resident has registered the Double Barrel name. For Kotlarczyk, he's not out to make a big deal about his name battle, but instead focus on what the Distillery meant to Bradenton and what Double Barrel Tavern will mean to Old Main in the future.
"We thought, 'what a better way to celebrate the name change,' as opposed to crying about it for a lack of better words," he said. "We fought, but after 10 years, doing this as a Rest In Peace Party and burying the old name in this area might be a fun, clever way to promote the new name."
The bar has been targeted before for copyright-related issues. In 2006, the bar's owners were sued for playing music without a license by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which maintains rights for songs. Those types of suits are fairly common for bars that play music either live or a jukebox, and that case was settled, according to court records. The bar was also accused along with about seven Tampa Bay bars by the NFL in 2010 for showing Tampa Bay Buccaneers games to customers during a blacked-out broadcast, but the complaint was dismissed.
Fortunately, two barrels are already in the bar's logo to keep some consistency, but changing the name won't be all that easy. The Distillery's name is etched in the floor, which will take a bit of work to replace.
The Distillery moved to Old Main in 2011 from its original location near DeSoto Square mall on 44th Avenue East, but the name has always been a bit of a misnomer as no whiskey or rum was ever distilled in the bar. It has crossed Kotlarcyzk's mind over the years to maybe dip his toe into the brewery field, but now isn't the time.
"I definitely had contemplated it. It's a little easier to get licenses to do those type of things than 10 years ago when I opened," he said. "...Maybe when kids are getting a little bit older and I'm not changing diapers, I might have a little more time to investigate doing something like that."
Through the battles, he's happy to have settled on Old Main as the Riverwalk and nearby breweries are reinvigorating downtown.
"I feel that downtown Bradenton is really coming into its own as of late," Kotlarczyk said. "There's a tremendous focused interest on the downtown area, and I think the things that are happening downtown are fantastic for everyone."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.