'In decades kids might be confused into believing that the lads who changed the world from a cellar bar in Liverpool instead started out at a Hard Rock,' says Cavern Club's Dave Jones
Liverpool's Cavern Club is headed to court over the Hard Rock Cafe's use of its name. Owners of the legendary Beatles concert venue are asking a US judge to strike down a 1994 ruling that allowed the Hard Rock chain to sell merchandise and open businesses with the Cavern Club label.
These are the grounds for his suit: although US officials allowed the Hard Rock Cafe to trademark the Cavern Club name, the restaurant chain's two Caverns – a pool bar in Boston and a themed room in Las Vegas – are both allegedly allusions to Liverpool's cellar venue.
That venue, where the Beatles established a residency between 1961 and 1963, was replaced with a car park in the mid-1970s. Jones's Cavern City Tours bought the land and erected a replica Cavern Club in 1984. Today the company is co-directed by Julian Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, and the rebuilt Cavern Club attracts nearly a million Beatles fans every year.
For Cavern City Tours, the Hard Rock's Cavern enterprises rest on an "outrageous insinuated claim to … [a] fame that has nothing whatsoever to do with them". "If this dispute is not put right," Jones went on, "perhaps in some decades time kids might be confused into believing that the four lads who actually changed the world from a cellar bar in Liverpool instead started out at a Hard Rock. And that would be a travesty of history and a tragedy for music heritage." It will also affect Cavern City Tours' bottom line: while they have licensed the Cavern name for nightclubs in Australia and Argentina, Hard Rock's holdings have prevented them from moving into the United States.
So far, authorities haven't sided with the Liverpudlians. In 2011, US officials rejected Jones's application to strike down the Hard Rock trademark. The current case is an escalation, "basically an appeal", attorney Paul Rapp told BBC News. Both sides will submit motions this June, with a trial to begin at the end of the year.
In the meantime, Jones is hoping to appeal to the showbiz instincts of the Hard Rock Cafe's owners, the Seminole tribe of Florida. The Native American group bought the Hard Rock corporation in 2007, paying $965m. The Seminoles' current council chairman, James E Billie, is a musician as well as a politician: he was nominated for a Grammy in 1999. "We are sure that as a musician Chief Jim Billie will see the history and the right to our claim," Cavern Club director Bill Heckle told the Echo. "If Chief Jim Billie instructs the Hard Rock to try to see it our way, not only will right be done but we'll put him and his band on at the Cavern Club as part of the deal."
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