When Chris Flood and a few associates entered the bar business, the name of their establishment had a nice ring to it: Big 12 Bar & Grille. But a year later, Flood and company will have to come up with something new. The Big 12 Conference has asked Flood and his partners to change the name of the bar at 304 S. Ninth St., claiming it violates the conference’s trademark.
“We got a letter one day, and we started correspondence with them,” Flood said. “It just said they felt we were infringing on their name.”
A second bar, also named after the athletic conference and located at 10 Nifong Blvd. W., also will have to undergo a name change, said an employee. The bar’s owner, Ken Pikop, could not be reached for comment.
Dan Beebe, the conference’s senior associate commissioner, said the conference is “obligated” to protect its name. The Big 12 Conference is an intercollegiate sporting alliance consisting of 12 universities in seven states, including Missouri.
“We have to remain diligent in protecting our mark,” Beebe said.
Flood said he and his partners discussed the possibility of a licensing arrangement with the conference that would allow the bar to keep its name. The conference turned down the idea. Beebe said the conference has a licensing agreement with Collegiate Licensing Company, an Atlanta-based apparel company, as well as limited agreements with media to use the Big 12 logo.
How the conference found out about the bar is a mystery, even to those who have been working to resolve the situation since the letter arrived from Beebe’s office last fall. Flood said the subject never came up.
The establishment opened three years ago as the Big 12 Bar & Grille. Before, it was named Sudsucker’s. Flood, Mike Geiss, Jason Robertson and two silent partners bought it last July. Flood said the bar is sponsoring a contest to help come up with a new name. Contestants must be at least 21 years old, and the winner will receive a $200 beer tab. The bar has until June 1 to change its name.
“We want to have a decision pretty quickly,” Flood said. “We’re going to do it during the semester break between the end of the semester and summer school.”
Flood said he will be sad to see the name change, but he is not worried about its effects.
“Yeah, we all like the name, but I don’t think anybody here worries about it,” he said. “It’s the service, not the name, that makes the establishment.”
Beebe said the bar owners have been cooperative with the conference.
“It hasn’t been contentious at all, and they have been great,” Beebe said.