At lunchtime on Wednesday (Jan. 27), the sign over the Warehouse District eatery at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Girod streets read simply “Lucy’s New Orleans.” By dinnertime that same day, the sign was replaced with one reading “701 Bar & Restaurant.”
The new moniker is a reference to the address of a hotspot that had for decades been known as Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar, and it’s the public manifestation of a dispute between its founders and its operators that has led to a raft of changes.
Last week, a federal judge in New Orleans issued an injunction barring the operators of the tavern from using the word “Lucy’s,” as well as “surfboards, explicitly surfer-related decorative items, and all menu items that contain references to surfing.”
Inside the business now called 701 Bar & Restaurant, the layout of the old Lucy’s is the same, though some of the beach shack décor has come down and stickers with a fleur de lis design and a 701 logo have gone up over old Lucy’s logos.
The menu, newly printed with the 701 logo, is still composed of a familiar mix of burgers and tacos and Tex-Mex bar snacks. On Yelp, the consumer review page for the old Lucy’s is now listed as 701 Tchoup, while online maps identify it now as 701 Bar & Restaurant.
Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar got its start in Manhattan in 1985, when Bruce Rampick mounted a surf board in the new bar the California native was developing. Thus was born a beach and surf theme for a big city bar, and a successful concept fueled by tequila, tropical drinks with plastic mermaid garnishes and an easygoing atmosphere. Rampick married a New Orleans native, Susan Rampick, and they opened Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar in the Warehouse District in 1992.
It was a pioneer in a part of town only then beginning its transition to a dining and nightlife destination. It became a colorful anchor for the neighborhood as it redeveloped, a hub for Carnival parade spectators and a destination for pre- and post-Saints game parties.
Over time, the structure of the company that ran Lucy’s grew more complicated, and internal conflicts cropped up.
Mark Thurmon, a Baton Rouge attorney representing Bruce Rampick, said, “Like a lot of these situations, it starts with a dispute and conflicts within the business.”
The business at 701 Tchoupitoulas St. is run by a company called TWTB Inc., which Rampick formed as majority owner in 1992, according to court filings.
Thurmon said Rampick was recently forced out of the company. In court filings, TWTB and restaurant operator Frank Eugene Raper claimed Rampick violated fiduciary duties as an officer in the company. Last summer, TWTB filed suit against Rampick, alleging theft and fraud from the business. Thurmon said Rampick denies this. The court has not yet ruled on the suit. Raper and his attorney were not immediately available to comment.
Meanwhile, a different company, called LRSBR and formed by Rampick, owns the trademark to Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar. Last fall this company filed suit against TWTB claiming violations of the terms of a trademark license. Last year, the business name had changed from Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar to simply Lucy’s.
But U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown ruled that “Lucy’s” was still “highly likely to create confusion in the mind of the ordinary consumer” and issued the injunction of its use in a ruling on Jan. 20.
The ruling does not effect an expansion location of Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar in Baton Rouge, which is run by Jack Warner, a founder of the Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar brand.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.