Toronto bar Cold Tea in dispute with Vancouver restaurant that just opened with same name
In Vancouver, there's now a restaurant called Cold Tea that serves all-day dim sum, Vietnamese bahn mi and bottles of Cava.
It's not a business that serves off-menu booze in tea pots, like the name implies, but one thing is indisputable: Toronto's Cold Tea, which sits in Kensington Market, was the first to call itself by that name nearly a decade ago.
It's why owners of Toronto's original Cold Tea were up in arms when they found out a west coast version had popped up out of the woodwork a few months ago.
"We caught wind of this Vancouver-based corporation opening Cold Tea Restaurant via a flood of excited Instagram messages about us opening up in B.C.," say Cold Tea owners Stacey Welton and Oliver Dimapilis.
After some digging, Welton and Dimapilis were confused to find a brand that was "eerily similar" to theirs, with a teapot logo, Asian-inspired murals, and dim sum, coupled with a menu of craft cocktails.
Our brand is our identity. It is who we are. Over the last 10 years we have poured our hearts and souls into creating and branding the name “Cold Tea”; a safe and inclusive space where people come together with a shared love of music and food and drink. Many of our guests over the years have told us they made special travel arrangements from across the globe to come and see us, and we are so incredibly proud of the spaces we have created during this time. Sadly, and during a pandemic no less when resources are particularly scarce, a Vancouver based corporation has chosen to try and trademark the name “Cold Tea” and claim it as their own. They have refused our requests to simply change the name. We are just 2 people trying to make a life and a brand that we feel we can stand behind wholeheartedly and this cuts deep. We want to make it clear that we are IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH @coldtearestaurant and ask that our supporters - particularly those that are outside the GTA, drop us a dm or comment and let us know where you're following us from - while we continue to try and fight for what we believe is rightfully ours. ✌️ Stay well friends. It's a lot right now in so many ways and we look forward to coming back together soon.
"Cold Tea is what WE have created over the last decade and we have no interest in any more confusion about being affiliated with a large corporate entity based out of Vancouver," they said. "It's just not who we are."
Welton and Dimapilis immediately sought legal council to figure out what their naming rights were, only to find out that the Vancouver restaurant had already applied to trademark Cold Tea as their own.
When they requested the Vancouver company change its name, they were met with a "resounding no".
"Our request to them has been, and remains, that they change their name to something unique to them, and build their own brand, independent of us. They are, thus far, unwilling to budge."
Brand twins, while not ideal, aren't unheard of. But issues arise when the product those brands are offering to the public aren't drastically different.
But Vancouver's Cold Tea — operated by a group of four co-owners including brothers Ron and Joe Cheng — argues the two just aren't similar enough to warrant the backlash.
"The concepts are very different and are in different cities: a modern dim sum and Vietnamese restaurant versus a bar with late night snacks," said a spokesperson for the restaurant.
The Vancouver business says the inspiration for the name comes from Granville's iconic Chinese restaurant Tsui Hang, which operated in that same building for 34 years and did allegedly serve tea pots of beer after hours until it closed last November.
And despite the bar's claims that the term cold tea originated in Toronto (according to Urban Dictionary) the restaurant says the term cold tea "has been widely used globally within many Chinese establishments and has been a part of Chinese culture for decades".
"The Cold Tea Restaurant team did their due diligence, they did a name search with CRA, a trademark search before filing anything and nothing had come up — this was done to make sure they did not impose on any other company’s legal identity.
Simply put: The Cold Tea Restaurant is paying homage to their legendary predecessor, Tsui Hang Village Restaurant — not trying to copy a bar group in Toronto."
Welton and Dimapilis see the move as a direct affront to the legacy that has gained them a global following since they opened in 2011, and put out an Instagram post alerting their followers about the situation this week.
The Vancouver restaurant has since had its Instagram post flooded with supporters of the Toronto version accusing them of theft and demanding that they change their name.
"We should be supporting each other in times like this," says Cold Tea Restaurant regarding the negative comments.
The restaurant's representative says that, if they were able to trademark the name Cold Tea, they would not send the Toronto bar a cease-and-desist letter asking them to change their name.
"[The restaurant] trademarked the name as any business would when they register and incorporate a company, it never had anything to do with Cold Tea Bar. They wish to co-exist."
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