The company behind a popular restaurant in LoHi is suing what it calls a new “knock-off restaurant in the neighborhood” and demanding the newcomer change its name.
Edible Beats, an employee-owned restaurant group, runs Root Down in LoHi, Vital Root in Berkeley and four other locations. It takes issue with Rooted, a restaurant that opened in May at 3940 W. 32nd Ave. in the West Highland neighborhood.
“Rooted…intentionally and blatantly copies the Root Down and Vital Root restaurant concepts and, incredibly, opened its knock-off restaurant in the neighborhood where both Root Down and Vital Root are well-established restaurants,” Edible Beats wrote in a June 27 lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Rooted of violating Edible Beats’ trademark of “Vital Root.” It refers to Rooted as being “just down the street from Root Down and Vital Root.” Rooted is two miles away from Root Down and a mile from Vital Root, in a different neighborhood.
Shannan Reese, a spokeswoman for Rooted, said “the parties are in active conversations to find a resolution” and therefore Rooted “will not be commenting on the lawsuit.”
The root of the dispute between Justin Cucci, founder of Edible Beats, and Nicholas Kayser, owner of Rooted, is that Kayser’s girlfriend is a neighbor of Cucci. The two chefs became friendly in 2020 and 2021, as Kayser found success with his Rooted restaurant in Boulder’s Avanti food hall and decided a brick-and-mortar location would be next.
“What Mr. Kayser never told Mr. Cucci was that his ‘new’ restaurant was going to move into the same Highlands neighborhood as Root Down and Vital Root, use the (name) Rooted and copy the concepts of Edible Beats’ restaurants,” last week’s lawsuit alleges.
Among the similarities between Root Down, Vital Root and Rooted, according to the lawsuit: They include the word “root”; they are American restaurants with local ingredients; they have open concept kitchens; their logos use bold serif font and they have plants on the walls.
“Edible Beats employees have spoken with neighborhood regulars who inquired as to the affiliation between Rooted…Root Down and Vital Root,” the lawsuit claims.
Edible Beats is asking U.S. District Court Judge S. Kato Crews to prohibit Rooted from using the Rooted name, force Rooted to pay it “all profits Rooted has received by its conduct,” and require Rooted to pay any attorney fees and court costs that Edible Beats spends on the case.
Edible Beats is represented by attorneys Andrew Lillie, Emily Cooper and Ellen Levish with the Denver office of Holland & Hart, a Colorado-based firm. When asked to comment, they deferred to Megan Baldwin, director of strategy at Edible Beats, who declined to.