23 August 2004

Naming rights

For a few years there, I owned a nightclub. Matt and I co-owned it; it was a pretty big place, and we gave some of our friends jobs as barbacks, and let most of our friends in for free. So yeah, some of our "friends" were stealing from us, and we probably should have charged more of the ones who weren't, and maybe I wasn't so great as a boss lady sometimes (think: doormat). And we totally lost our shirts and were quite lucky to get out of town without getting tarred and feathered by various creditors. But, all in all, it was a great experience, we had a lot of fun and learned a lot, most of which can be summed up by:

1. Don't buy a nightclub.

2. Don't buy any business that involves having a liquor license that also caters to a very young adult crowd.

3. Be especially wary of businesses that have as their premises a 200-year-old brick warehouse that is partly held up on the backside by a large iron buttress that gives new relevance to the term "jerry-rigged."

4. You'll go far if you can brazen your way through any manner of dangerous/borderline illegal situations. The universe can smell fear. Don't let on that you're wetting yourself.

One of the most difficult things involved in buying a nightclub, though, is deciding what to name the damn thing. We bought a pre-existing business with great name recognition in the area (and in the wider industry), but part of the purchase/sale agreement was that we would change the name.

So we brainstormed. For months. Not surprisingly, we knew lots of pretty wildly creative people at this point in our lives, and so we asked for their input. We actually had some pretty good ideas, but they were either a) already trademarked; b) too obscure; or c) unable to garner consensus approval by all the stakeholders.

Once we had decided on a name, and announced it with much fanfare, it only took two weeks for some yahoo bar owner from three hours away to claim that he had prior claim to the name (it was different by a couple of words, but obviously similar), and to threaten legal action. It was, as they say here in my home state, re-TAH-ded; his joint was a tiny hole in the wall three hours away, ours was the biggest live-music nightclub in the city. But we certainly couldn't afford a legal battle (I doubt he could either, but our lawyer told us he would probably win in court) so we changed the name. AGAIN.

So thrilling.

Why do I bring all this up now? Do I simply enjoy rolling around in the fetid aroma of past ignominy? Well, yes, of course, that's part of it. (and, as I said, it really wasn't all that bad of an experience, now that the insomnia and panic attacks have subsided -- it was actually quite fun to be a fancy-pants nightclub-owner in my late twenties...)

No, I was reminded of our struggle to name -- and then rename -- our club by a recent news item about the legal woes of a New York bar called:

Finius T. Flubberbuster's

When I read this, I could only breathe a deep sigh of relief that at least the name we eventually came up with for our club was WAY cooler than that. Thank God.

At the very least, I can state unequivocally that we never, not for a nanosecond, considered such a manifestly stupid name.

And no, I won't tell you what name we DID come up with, either. Statute of limitations, and all that, you know.

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