Downtown hot dog eatery ordered to change its name

Call off the dogmas

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Franks for the memories, Hot Dogma.

In the dog-eat-dog world of hot dog restaurants, the Pittsburgh location has decided to settle and change its name to Franktuary.

The settlement ends 17 months of legal wrangling with a Miami Beach restaurant that made a federal case out of the Pittsburgh site's name. Dogma Grill has a trademark on the word "dogma" and its attorneys contended the similarity in names might confuse consumers.

The settlement includes a small, undisclosed financial compensation and an agreement to drop the name Hot Dogma from its signs, Web site and merchandising.

"Basically, we have to pretend that we never existed," said Megan Lindsey, 25, one of the co-owners of the 2-year-old business located Downtown in the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Oliver Avenue.

"We really wanted to fight. The whole thing just seemed so absurd to us about confusing customers."

In the end, business sense held sway. While Hot Dogma has received pro bono representation since the four-count federal suit was filed in April, Ms. Lindsey didn't relish the effort an extended legal fight would require.

Hot Dogma has 150 days to complete the transformation into Franktuary.

The business offers up to 15 percent of its profits to Three Nails, a Christian group for youth that Ms. Lindsey's husband began several summers ago with friends. The menu has expanded to include smoothies, chicken wraps, soups and salads.

Ms. Lindsey and her co-owner, Tim Tobitsch, turned their first profitable month in November.

Ms. Lindsey said great care was taken in choosing the restaurant's new name. While one friend had suggested Dogsology, they figured "dogma" was tough enough for people to understand; a play on "doxology" would be asking too much.

But before settling on Franktuary, and while they still had pro bono representation, an attorney checked on possible trademark infringements. Only one restaurant was found: Franktitude, in Miami Beach. According to Ms. Lindsey, it is Dogma Grill's biggest rival.

Ms. Lindsey said she was sad about having to change the restaurant's name.

On the other hand, she said, "we're also excited to put it behind us. It was a 17-month hassle."

Frankly, the restaurant is too busy for either sour grapes or sauerkraut. Its second birthday is tomorrow and free ice cream cones will be offered all day.

And to properly bury the name Hot Dogma, a "giant funeral" is planned for down the road, she said.

That means a fire sale of the restaurant's hoodies and T-shirts, whose logo, is, of course, "Franks be to God."


Steve Levin can be reached at slevin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1919.


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