Philly Auto Show Sued by Garage Over Pop-Up Bar

The popular South Philly bar is taking the people behind the Auto Show to court over the Auto Show’s own “Garage” bar.

A photo of signage for "The Garage" bar at last year's Philadelphia Auto Show. (Court exhibit)

A photo of signage for “The Garage” bar at last year’s Philadelphia Auto Show. (Court exhibit)

The tuxedos are rented and the cocktail dresses have been procured for this Friday’s Black Tie Tailgate kickoff to the 2017 Philadelphia Auto Show, which runs through February 5th at the Convention Center. But now organizers are forced to address a new lawsuit filed by Garage, the popular bar with locations in South Philadelphia and Fishtown.

The suit, filed on Tuesday against the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, among others, centers on a bar called The Garage that was set up at last year’s Philadelphia Auto Show.

According to the lawsuit, that bar served craft beer and also featured arcade games. The problem is, there is already a bar called Garage (well, two of them), and a big part of their schtick is the craft beer and arcade game combo.

The original Garage in South Philadelphia (Photo by Jauhien Sasnou)

The original Garage in South Philadelphia (Photo by Jauhien Sasnou)

Prior to the opening of last year’s Philadelphia Auto Show, Garage — meaning the original Garage — found out about this other Garage, and the company’s attorney, J. Conor Corcoran, fired off a cease-and-desist letter to the association behind the show.

The letter read, in part:

“Please be advised that if the Auto Show continues to operate a bar under such a sobriquet” — that’s fancy lawyer talk for “assumed name” — “I will be forced to file suit. Given that your organization has already been advertising and trading upon the good name and reputation of my client’s bar, I could have sued already: but I trust that this cease and desist request will be the end of the matter.”

Nevertheless, the Auto Show went forward with its Garage concept and continued advertising it on social media. Why? “When the issue was raised last year, our position was that it had no merit,” says Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia.

A screenshot of the Auto Show's Facebook page.

A screenshot of the Auto Show’s Facebook page.

The Auto Show’s Garage also made it into media previews and recaps of the event.

What the lawsuit essentially says is that the owners of the real Garage worked hard to establish a cool brand in the city (the South Philly location of Garage was number 10 on our 2016 Best Bars list), and the Auto Show just came along and used their name and concept to make money.

Lawsuits like this tend to boil down to whether a person would reasonably be confused by the use of the name — i.e., would someone tend to think that the Auto Show Garage was connected to the Garage already in existence?

The suit asks for all profits derived from the Auto Show’s use of the name and seeks damages in excess of $500,000.

As for this year’s Philadelphia Auto Show, the main food-and-drink attraction is called The PitStop, and as far as we know, there’s no bar or restaurant in Philadelphia using that name. But Mazzucola, who says he hasn’t seen the lawsuit yet, insists that the name change has nothing to do with legal threats.

“We changed the name of the food and drink destination at the Auto Show this year to The PitStop to better reflect what it offers for attendees,” he tells us. “Not because of any potential suit.”

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