One of Manhattan’s oldest restaurants, Delmonico’s, open since 1837, is returning to the Financial District after being temporarily closed for nearly three years. A press release sent out this week states that the restaurant will return in fall 2023, with a design overhaul. Or, is it?
One family says they’re within their rights to reopen the restaurant in the historic Beaver Street space, while another claims the restaurant opening is in violation of the trademarked name. An Instagram post yesterday on Delmonico’s account alleges that the “recent reports that we will re-open at 56 Beaver Street is false. It has come to our attention that former associates have been misrepresenting themselves to the media as owners of Delmonico’s.”
The dispute is complicated, but it largely boils down to who owns the trademark rights to Delmonico’s name and its usage. Essentially, the family who operates the Delmonico’s Instagram, the Grgurevs, are alleging that new leaseholders of 56 Beaver Street are acting in bad faith, and using Delmonico’s name to move forward with a restaurant that Grgurevs are not involved in. In the meantime, the Grgurevs are in process of filing a lawsuit against the purported new operators.
The drama has seemingly been a long time coming and has many nitty-gritty twists and turns over intellectual property usage.
What we know is that brothers Ferdo and Omer Grgurev secured full ownership of the space in a lawsuit that ruled in their favor in spring 2021. The announced relaunch of Delmonico’s is helmed by Dennis Turcinovic, an employee of the restaurant for 20-plus years, and the son of ex-partner Branko Turcinovic who was divested of ownership rights in the earlier lawsuit (notably, Dennis was not named in that suit). Dennis Turcinovic appears to also be an owner in the clubstaurant Sei Less; and he is steering the Delmonico’s relaunch with Joseph Licul (an alleged family member of another Delmonico’s ex-partner ultimately divested in the 2021 suit, Milan Licul), who is involved in Sei Less with him, according to BroadwayWorld.
A spokesperson for Dennis Turcinovic said to Eater in an email, “Effective January 1, 2023, Joseph Licul and Dennis Trucinovic became the new owners of the property when they signed a new 15-year lease with Time Equities. Statements suggesting that they are not the owners are not true. They are also not involved with, or named, in any ongoing lawsuit with the previous owners.” However, things aren’t looking too good for Turcinovic. Following the initial publication of this article, the spokesperson stated that the firm had paused working with Turcinovic on his attempt at a Delmonico’s relaunch due to the “circumstances of this complicated situation.”
For the Grgurev’s part, a document supplied to Eater from that 2021 ruling in their favor, stated that not only was the family within their rights to operate a restaurant in New York under the Delmonico’s name, but that those named in the lawsuit were barred from operating a Delmonico’s restaurant or any other restaurant within one mile until March 2023 and also reserved their right to take action and enforce common law rights against those individuals named in the lawsuit and any other third party not mentioned.
In April 2022, Eater reported that the building’s landlord, Time Equities, was attempting to evict the restaurant, at the time, under the Grgurev family watch, for allegedly failing to pay almost $300,000 in rent and other fees. Meanwhile, the Grgurev family held strong that the eviction attempt was baseless, and related to the landlord’s alleged stalling on fixing water damage in the building from Hurricane Ida in 2021 (a representative for the landlord claimed the damage had been fixed).
By December 2022, the lease was expiring and the landlord did not renew it; Time Equities then signed the deal with Dennis and Joseph. Michelle Grgurev, daughter of Omer Grgurev, told Eater her family believes that the landlord intentionally allowed the lease to expire so that the building could lease to the Grgurev’s ex-partners. In a statement provided to Eater, Time Equities stated that “we do not comment when matters are part of a court proceeding.”
The new leasees don’t know when or if they’ll be able to serve booze. A representative for Community Board 1 told Eater that the hearing for the liquor license related to 56 Beaver Street space is on hold indefinitely while the board seeks guidance from the State Liquor Authority about how to move forward with the unusual circumstances.
In a document provided to Eater by Dennis Trucinovic’s spokesperson before pausing working with him, the team’s law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP refuted the hold-up: “Their claim, like their evidence, is overblown and a smoke screen,” they wrote to the community board. “Trademark rights are obtained through use. The name Delmonico’s is not only etched in the building itself, but has been recognized as a City landmark as the site of the Delmonico’s restaurant. The original owners of the Delmonico’s restaurant licensed the name to Beaver for use in connection with a restaurant at 56 Beaver Street.” Eater has reached out to the firm for more information.
Meanwhile, there is a different case with restaurateur Emeril Lagasse, who operated Emeril’s Delmonico, in New Orleans, before it closed in February 2022; there appears to be pending litigation regarding concurrent use of the name Delmonico, as a restaurant and for its associated goods.
Eater has reached out to Lagasse’s legal team for comment. In a text message to Eater, Dennis Trucinovic claimed that “no one currently owns the Delmonico’s name for restaurant services.” Meanwhile, the Grgurev family disputes this and has 22 pending trademark applications related to use of the Delmonico’s name.
In the meantime, Grgurev family continues legal proceedings with Time Equities, while Trucinovic and Lichul appear to be moving forward with their attempts to open at 56 Beaver Street.
Update: January 23rd, 2023, 12:43 p.m.: This article was updated to include information regarding that Dennis Trucinovic’s spokesperson has paused working with him. This is a developing story.