Cafe Society

Brothers v. My Brother's lands in court

Oh, brother! Jim and Angelo Karagas bought an old saloon at 2376 15th Street more than forty years ago, transforming it into My Brother's Bar, an institution so beloved in Denver that it needs no sign. But for more than twenty years, it did have an actual sibling: While Jim oversaw Brother's, Angelo managed the Wazee Supper Club, another watering hole the brothers bought, at 1600 15th Street, from 1974 until he passed away in 1994. (Today the Wazee is part of the group that owns the Wynkoop Brewing Company, as well as a half-dozen other restaurants.)

Now another Brothers is entering the market -- but it's no relation. Although Jim Karagas didn't mind so much when Chris and Nick O'Sullivan started Brothers BBQ -- the homegrown chain has "a totally different name and concept," he says -- Brothers Bar & Grill comes too close. Literally, since this Brothers is slated to open less than a mile away from My Brother's, at 1920 Market Street (once The Real World: Denver house, most recently Theörie).

And in March, Karagas's lawyer sent a letter on behalf of My Brothers to Fortney Affiliates, the Wisconsin-based company started by Eric and Mark Fortney that now has fifteen sports bars in the Midwest, encouraging them to change the name of their soon-to-open Denver joint -- or face potential legal action.

But Brothers beat My Brother's to court.

On May 3, Fortney Affiliates filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Denver, noting that MBI "has demanded that Fortney Affiliates cancel any plans to use the Registered Brothers Marks" and asking the court to rule that Fortney can use the Brothers name here - and also award it attorney's fees. The Brothers bars "cater to a young audience and have a reputation for competitive drink specials and large drink selections," the complaint continues. "The bars are well known in their markets for offering over-the-top events for young adults in a fun, safe environment."

While it's true that no one could consider the classical music at My Brother's or its ongoing Girl Scout cookie sales or the modest presentation of its bar burgers "over-the-top," there's also no denying the "fun" factor of the oldest continually operating bar in Denver. So let's raise a glass to My Brother's -- a true original.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun