The meatless fast-casual wars in NYC continue with the latest lawsuit from vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli. The ousted founding chef of vegan fast-casual chain By Chloe has filed yet another lawsuit alleging harassment from former partner James Haber and his hospitality group, this time with celebrity chef Tom Colicchio joining her in the legal battle.
Coscarelli and Colicchio claim that By Chloe, led by Haber, has been harassing her over her new meatless pop-up Supernatural, which Coscarelli launched with Colicchio in March at Craft. Shortly after the debut, Haber and his company ESquared’s BC Hospitality Group sent its lawyers after the pop-up for trademark infringement — claiming that Coscarelli’s new project would be too confusing for fans of By Chloe.
But Coscarelli and Colicchio are calling it a baseless accusation, saying that their pop-up does not associate with the restaurant By Chloe. Supernatural is not a full-fledged restaurant; the lunchtime pop-up is slated to run just a few weeks, with dinner offered some weekend nights. The new suit, which lists both Coscarelli and Colicchio as the plaintiffs, alleges that BCHG’s trademark infringement letter is an example of harassment; they’re asking the courts to rule that they’re not violating any trademarks.
When asked for comment on the new suit, BC Hospitality Group reiterated that it thinks Coscarelli’s new pop-up will create brand confusion. A rep pointed to screenshots of Supernatural customers tagging By Chloe on Instagram posts.
Coscarelli’s suit calls that “improper and baseless,” saying that she and Colicchio stand on their own as chefs.
“The undisputed fact, which BCHG’s letter ignores, is that ‘by CHLOE’ pales in comparison to the recognition that Chloe and Colicchio have earned through their talent and craft. And to be clear, neither Chloe nor Colicchio want their innovative and fresh collaboration at Supernatural to have any association with BCHG and by CHLOE,” the suit says.
It’s just the latest dramatic development in of the web of plant-based beef between Coscarelli and Haber. The chef sued ESquared for the first time in 2015, claiming that Haber wanted her to go against her brand and serve meat in her restaurants. In March 2017, an arbitrator determined that Coscarelli was “grossly negligent” of the restaurant, and ESquared subsequently pushed her out of the company.
But ESquared continues to use the restaurant name By Chloe, and last year, Coscarelli filed a lawsuit trying to get damages for use of her name and aiming to get back her restaurant shares. At the time, Haber denied the suit’s claims. The suit is pending.
For the most part, By Chloe’s expansion seems to be doing fine, with the company receiving $31 million in funding from various investment groups for a global expansion plan. Some of ESquared’s non-By Chloe ventures have not fared so well though, including the short-lived attempt at fast-casual pasta the Sosta, which closed earlier this year.
Coscarelli continues to be a TV personality and the face of Instagram-friendly vegan food, but she has not opened a full-time restaurant in NYC since the fallout with By Chloe. The Supernatural pop-up will be going on until the end of the month, with dishes such as avocado toast and cauliflower tacos.