Root Down Owner Justin Cucci Is Suing Rooted for a Trademark Violation | Westword

What's in a Name? For Restaurants, Potentially a Lawsuit

The Edible Beats group is suing Rooted, a new restaurant with a name similar to Root Down and Vital Root. But that's not the only source of culinary confusion.
The fast-casual Vital Root is part of the Edible Beats restaurant group.
The fast-casual Vital Root is part of the Edible Beats restaurant group. Danielle Lirette
Share this:
In 2022, we reported on a trademark dispute between two Campfires — Colorado Campfire at 400 East 19th Avenue and restaurateur Jared Leonard's Campfire in Evergreen. Today, both restaurants are still operating under those names, and Leonard even opened a second Campfire in Lakewood in January.

Now there's another fight over names in the local dining scene. As reported by Business Den, The Edible Beats restaurant group, which is owned by Justin Cucci and includes Root Down and Vital Root, is suing Rooted Craft American Kitchen, the eatery that chef Nicholas Kayser opened at 3490 West 32nd Avenue in May.

The lawsuit claims that Rooted violates Edible Beats' trademark of "Vital Root," and lists several incredibly generic similarities between the two, which include the fact that both are "American restaurants with local ingredients; they have open concept kitchens; their logos use bold serif font and they have plants on the walls," according to Business Den. The suit also claims that Vital Root, which is in Berkeley, is in the same neighborhood as Rooted, which is one mile away in West Highland.

Sure, the names are similar — they obviously both contain "root" — but this is hardly the only example of local food and drink establishments that are easy to mix up.
click to enlarge a glass entryway with a black sign in the window
Rooted opened in late May and might have to change its name.
Lucy Beaugard
In a recent conversation, I was telling some people about a Bloody Mary I'd enjoyed at our 2023 Best of Denver pick for Best Brunch, Fox Run Cafe on East Colfax, and they, understandably, thought I was referring to Fox and the Hen, the new brunch spot from chef Carrie Baird. Could there be a Fox fight soon? I hope not; both places are worthy on their own.

And speaking of animal-inspired names, there's a veritable flock of "birds" around, including Bird on South Pearl Street, which originally opened as Yardbird in 2017. Good thing it later dropped the "yard," though, as Miami-born Yardbird is now opening in RiNo on July 19. Yes, both serve fried chicken.

Then there's Rare Bird, the new rooftop bar at the Halcyon Hotel, and the Catbird hotel in RiNo, as well as Birdcall, Early Bird and Bird & Jim in Estes Park. And don't forget the multi-location hot chicken joint Blazing Bird, not to be confused with our 2023 Best Southern/Soul Restaurant: Blazing Chicken Shack II.

Floral names abound as well — Marigold, the fine-dining restaurant in Lyons, is not the same as Marigold, the bar that doubles as a plant shop in Five Points. All-day cafe and bar the Wild near Union Station can easily be confused with Wildflower, an all-day cafe, bar and restaurant inside the Life House hotel in LoHi, and a wine bar called Wolf + Wildflower just opened in Wheat Ridge. (No relation to the Wolf's Tailor, either). And soon, Chicken Rebel owner Lydie Lovett will debut a brunch concept called Wilde on Tennyson Street.

In March 2022, a chopped cheese food truck called Big Apple Bodega hit the streets. That summer, Cliff Blauvelt opened Bodega in Sunnyside, serving sandwiches, breakfast burritos and a damn good burger. Bread & Butter Bodega, a market in RiNo, debuted in January, followed in March by Little Bodega, a market that serves sandwiches in Five Points. There's also an international snack store called It's a Bodega on South Broadway.

"Social" is a buzzword that's gotten too much play lately: Ritual Social House, Bacon Social House, Basketball Social House, Stout Street Social, Reynard Social, Poka Lola Social House, Punch Bowl Social, Social Bar & Lounge, Freedom Street Social. And the Hampton Social will soon come to Central Street in LoHi.

The trio of "Osaka" spots Osaka Ramen, Osaka Sushi and Osaka's in Boulder — are all unrelated.
click to enlarge a black building with a window and an open door
This bar near DU has no name.
Molly Martin
And if you want to go bar hopping, consider a tour of Stadium Inn, Dew Drop Inn, Kentucky Inn, Berkeley Inn, Nob Hill Inn, Billy's Inn and Dive Inn, which is not the same at the hi-dive, as the marquee at that nearby bar and music venue has noted for a long time.

Perhaps the only sure way to avoid a lawsuit is to go with a name that certainly couldn't be confused with another, like West of Surrender, "which sounds more like a lost Steinbeck novel than an inviting place to dine," wrote former Westword food and drink editor Mark Antonation ahead of its 2019 opening. Still, the restaurant that replaced longtime mall mainstay Marlowe's did not surrender to the pandemic, and is still going.

Or follow the lead of the owner of the Englewood Grand, who still hasn't named his new addition near the University of Denver at all.

With Rooted, Kayser has created a solid neighborhood spot that we hope will stick around for a while, no matter what it ends up being called. 
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Westword has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.