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Who own’s ‘Lefty’s?’ Manager, landlord each make claims

The property owners and managers of Lefty O’Douls, a well-known San Francisco restaurant named after a famous local ballplayer, are embroiled in a dispute over who owns the rights to the name and the memorabilia the business has collected over the years.

Restaurant manager Nick Bovis announced last week that the restaurant, which has been at 333 Geary St. since 1958, would be moving to a new location in Union Square after its lease was terminated by the property owners. The new location has not been announced, but the family hopes to reopen before the end of the year.

UPDATE 1/17 Handlery family sues over Lefty O’Doul’s memorabilia.

Monday, however, a spokesman for the Handlery family, which owns the building and neighboring properties, said the property owners are the owners of the restaurant and hold the legal rights to both the name “Lefty O’Doul’s” and to all the memorabilia and property inside.

They plan to close for renovations Feb. 3 and reopen under the Lefty O’Doul’s name with the same décor, spokesman Adam Alberti said.

Alberti said:

“The current operator is a tenant, he is a manager of the restaurant. … Since 1958 the restaurant has been operated by the Handlery family under a number of different managers.”

Bovis, however, Sunday said he holds the trademark to the restaurant’s name and most of the memorabilia was given to his family personally. Much of that memorabilia has already been removed from the walls of the restaurant as it prepares for closure.

Bovis, who spoke today at a press conference flanked by Mayor Willie Brown and well-known attorney Joe Cotchett, as well as by Pat O’Doul, a cousin of Lefty’s, said his father had been in negotiations to buy the restaurant in the 1960s before Lefty O’Doul’s death.

The family eventually took over management in the 1990s, and has worked to maintain its reputation as a local institution since that time, with events including an annual Christmas toy drive and a breakfast for survivors of the 1906 earthquake.

Nick Bovis removes horseshoes commemorating retired police horses at Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant on Geary Street near Union Square. The ownership of the restaurant’s name and memorabilia is under dispute. Sara Gaiser/BCN

Bovis said Sunday:

“I will not let Lefty’s be handed over to corporate greed nor will I let it die.”

Bovis said planned to keep all restaurant employees on the payroll until he reopened at the new location.

The matter appears headed for court. Attorneys for Bovis Sunday said there was nothing in the restaurant’s lease to support the Handlery’s claim to ownership, and the trademark had been established since at least 2008.

Cotchett said:

“We have the best lawyers around, who tragically have to waste time with this matter when everyone knows the Bovis family owns Lefty’s.”

Alberti said the Handlery family disputed the trademarks, which he called “a matter for litigation,” and would defend their claim to the name.

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