Pub's name ruffles singer's feathers Buffeted by lawyers, bar changes moniker

November 19, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Under threat of a lawsuit by lawyers representing singer Jimmy Buffett, a Glen Burnie bar is changing its name -- but not its bird.

Today, the Parrot Head Pub at 1702 Furnace Drive becomes the Parrotdise Pub.

Buffett's lawyers contended that the Parrot Head's owners were parroting the trademarked nickname of the Key West entertainer's fans -- known as "Parrot Heads" since the early 1980s, when a member of his band coined the term at a Cincinnati concert.

"I thought it was kind of ridiculous that he has to pick on a fan," said Rebecca Mohr, who owns the bar with her husband, David, and her parents. "You would think that he'd have better things to do than pick on a little bar in Glen Burnie."

"But he's got a lot more money to play with than I do," David Mohr added.

A spokeswoman for Los Angeles-based HK Management, Buffett's management firm, refused to be named or quoted directly, but said the company did not want fans to believe Buffett owns and operates all such pubs or restaurants bearing names associated with the singer. She also said fans often alert the company to such establishments.

The Mohrs, who admit to being Parrot Heads for more than a decade, said they named the bar in honor of their favorite singer when they bought it in 1994.

In fact, the bar is almost a shrine to Buffett. Tucked away in a nest of cookie-cutter homes along Marley Creek, the small bar's tiki-hut exterior stands out.

Inside, the Buffett-style motif includes fake palm trees, brightly colored parrots dangling from the ceiling and gracing the beer taps, six Buffett CDs in the jukebox, and parrots in Margarita glasses emblazoned on pub T-shirts, sweat shirts and caps.

"We liked him before he was even popular," said David Mohr, as Buffett's album "Banana Wind" played over the sound system. Buffett's music "just relaxes you. When it's freezing and snowing up here, it helps you get away."

The Mohrs said they believe Buffett's representatives found out about them in June 1996, after some 50 bar patrons attended his concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion wearing "Parrot Head Pub" shirts. Two months later, they received a letter from Terry D. Aronoff, an Atlanta-based attorney representing Buffett, ordering them to "cease and desist any use of Parrot Head" in connection with the bar.

Aronoff, who declined to comment yesterday, said in the letter that Buffett owned federal trademark registration for "Parrot Head Club."

"Allowing even the most well-meaning fans to use those names, however well-run their businesses may be, places Mr. Buffett's reputation and goodwill at risk," the letter said, threatening the possibility of a lawsuit if the Mohrs did not comply.

The Mohrs, who said they did not want to go to court, began thinking of a new name after Aronoff called weeks later to follow up on the letter. They said they've been phasing in the change gradually so customers would get used to it.

Now, the new T-shirts are in, new posters have been printed, and their new sign goes up today.

The total cost of the name change: about $5,000.

The hassle and cost have left the Mohrs slightly disillusioned with their idol.

"It makes us wonder if the attitudes in his music are the same as the attitudes that he lives by," said Rebecca Mohr, referring to the laid-back beach culture Buffett touts in his songs.

Even so, they said they hope he'll stop by the next time he breezes into town.

"I'd like to find out why he did this," David Mohr said. "And maybe make him a margarita and change his mind."

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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