Ooo-ooh, this smells!
Bay Ridge’s beloved Southern Comfort — a rock band best known for its versions of Southern-fried classics by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and the Outlaws — has been ordered to shelve its monicker by the makers of a frat-house booze that owns the copyright.
Lawyers for Southern Comfort Properties — who make the world-renowned Southern Comfort liqueur — also demanded that the band cease and desist using the Web site, www.southe
“The Southern Comfort brand has a strong connection with music, and the public associates the Southern Comfort brand and its products with music,” lawyer Jill Jacobs said in a Sept. 2 letter to the band’s guitarist, Eddie Sarkis. “Your band members’ use of ‘Southern Comfort’ in your band’s name … is likely to cause the public to mistakenly believe that you are associated with, authorized by, or sponsored by Southern Comfort Properties when they are not.”
Sarkis said he felt like he’d been attacked in a barroom after reading the letter.
“When I got the letter, I didn’t think it was real,” he told The Brooklyn Paper. “Why did they single out a couple of guys from Brooklyn when there are hundreds of bands across the country using that name?”
Actually, when he asked Jacobs that very question, she had a simple answer, “Think of this speeding analogy,” she wrote back to him in an e-mail. “Everyone on the road may be driving 75 mph, but that does not mean that if a police officer pulls you over, you will not get a ticket even if the other drivers do not.”
Courts have upheld the rights of copyright owners in cases when other businesses’ use of the same name confuses the public, so Jacobs’s legal argument is fairly routine.
Indeed, a few years back, the owners of F Line Bagel received just such a cease-and-desist letter from lawyers for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who argued that the store’s location across the street from the F-train stop at Smith and Ninth Street in Carroll Gardens would confuse straphangers into believing that the MTA had gotten into the bagel business.
The store removed the “F” and is now known to some as “Line Bagels,” though residents still use the subway route’s name when referring to the shop.
For now, Sarkis said he doesn’t know what he’ll do about the cease-and-desist deadline, which comes three days after the band’s headlining gig at the Bay Ridge Reunion and nine days before another certain-to-be-unforgettable gig at Bally Bunion.
“We’re very well known as Southern Comfort,” said Sarkis, who is also a member of the three-decades-old band Head Over Heels, which had a Southern-heavy playlist when it formed, but now makes big money on the corporate scene with Sinatra and other standards.
On Wednesday, he was still scratching his head about the flack from the Kentucky-based makers of the booze with whom his band shares a name.
“I have been playing Bay Ridge for many, many years, and not to blow my own horn, but we are the most popular band in the neighborhood — so I think someone in another band ratted us out to [Southern Comfort Properties]. How else can you explain it?”
One thing is certain for now: the band is not ordering any Southern Comfort.
“Fact is, I don’t even drink,” Sarkis said. “I’ll have a beer or two, but I don’t like Southern Comfort.”
— with Gary Buiso
Catch Southern Comfort as part of the Bay Ridge Reunion at Fort Hamilton (enter at Fort Hamilton Parkway and 101st Street in Bay Ridge) on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 8 pm. The band will also perform at Bally Bunion [Third Avenue at 95th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 833–2801] on Friday, Sept. 25 at 10 pm.