“Crazy shakes,” those viral, massive candy-topped milkshakes from Black Tap Burgers & Beer, are now at the center of a lawsuit pitting the restaurant’s owners against three men who claim partial credit for the Instagram-famous craze. A new lawsuit alleges that those colorful, sugary drinks were a multi-million-dollar idea that Angela Nicastro, Elenodoros Theodoulou, and Evan Frost of 248 Hospitality created in collaboration with Black Tap’s Joseph Isidori and Christopher Barish before being cut out of profits and the brand’s expansion based off the success of the novelty dessert.
According to the suit, which can be read in full below, Frost helped his friend Isidori and Barish open the original Black Tap location in Soho at 529 Broome St. without a formal agreement, and also connected them with Nicastro and Theodoulou, who owned a sports bar called Game at 248 West 14th St. where the men agreed to open a larger, second Black Tap location.
Financed by Nicastro and Theodoulou, Game was renovated to become a full-fledged Black Tap restaurant, opening in October 2015, the suits says, after which the group hired a public relations firm to pimp the spot out. As it turns out, all that Instagram hype the restaurant got in its early months was the result of this move, as the PR company helped bring in nearly 100 influencers all with 100,000 or more Instagram followers to help promote the restaurant. Black Tap’s Instagram following subsequently shot from 4,500 to 250,000, and within four months of opening, the restaurant was attracting long lines of customers waiting up to three hours for a table.
After the restaurant took off, talks of expansion began. That’s when the suit alleges Isidori and Barish formed two companies in secret: Isidori Barish Hospitality Group, LLC and Isidori Barish Properties, LLC. Both were allegedly formed without Frost, Nicastro, and Theodoulou’s consent and were used by Isidori and Barish to file multiple trademarks for the name “Black Tap” and “Crazy Shakes.”
In a statement provided to Eater NY, a spokesperson for Black Tap writes, “There is no basis for this lawsuit given [they] have no ownership interest in the Black Tap brand. The only involvement they have with Black Tap is limited to an oral license to operate a single restaurant.”
These shakes were all the rage back in 2016 and have since spawned a major expansion — Black Tap now has four locations in NYC and one in Las Vegas. According to the lawsuit, there are plans for global expansion, including a Black Tap restaurant in Dubai. But because they were excluded from the trademark applications, Frost, Nicastro, and Theodoulou have been excluded from the profits and Isidori and Barish have cut them out of the brand’s expansion, the suit alleges.
Now, Frost, Nicastro, and Theodoulou are arguing that they all financed the creation of the Black Tap restaurant on 14th Street and the larger Black Tap brand and should thus own half of the Black Tap name and be paid a whopping $25 million in damages. Despite multiple attempts by Black Tap to stop the suit since it was filed in July 2017, it is still moving forward in Manhattan Supreme Court. Eater has reached out to Frost, Nicastro, and Theodoulou’s lawyer for more information.