Devilish dispute pits Ballpark restaurant against same-named LoDo club

La Diabla Story Image

The storefronts of La Diabla Nightclub & Lounge, left, and La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal, right. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

“The devil,” a Denver attorney wrote, “is once again at the forefront of yet another battle.”

It was late April, and a critically acclaimed restaurant was trying to force his client’s new club to change names. So, to fend off that attack, Tayo Okunade was turning to history.

“For centuries on end,” he wrote in a court document April 23, “and without regard to religion, faith, or creed, humankind has long proffered its opinion and belief on the existence of the devil, and his, her, or its impressive prowess in creating chaos everywhere probable.”

For the past three months, the restaurant La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal at 2233 Larimer St. has been suing La Diabla Nightclub & Lounge, less than a mile away at 1512 Curtis St. Their devilish dispute pits trademark laws against free expression, the two sides say.


La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal is at 2233 Larimer St. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

Nationally renowned chef Jose Avila opened the restaurant La Diabla in 2021 after success with a food truck and pop-up spot. Despite its no-frills appearance and simple menu, it has already won awards and praise from Michelin, the James Beard Foundation, and others.

La Diabla Nightclub — “Where Sins Do Not Exist” — opened in December with cocktails, Latin music and a devil motif. It chose the name to show it’s “a place for guests to feel free to express themselves without fear of retribution from the outside world,” its lawyer says.

One week before the nightclub opened, La Diabla restaurant told the club that the restaurant “owns the right to exclusive use of the La Diabla tradename and artwork,” according to a lawsuit that the restaurant filed in March, four months after the nightclub’s debut.

“The artwork used in (the nightclub)’s advertising, particularly the lettering, bears a striking similarity to plaintiffs’ artwork,” the restaurant alleges and the nightclub denies.

La Diabla restaurant said that negative online reviews meant for the nightclub have been left on the restaurant’s pages and jilted customers of the club have called the restaurant “asking for refunds due to poor service and overcharging,” further damaging the La Diabla name.


La Diabla Nightclub & Lounge is at 1512 Curtis St. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

La Diabla Nightclub denies that too and has fired back with some criticisms of its own.

“In reality, amongst plaintiffs’ sea of negative Google reviews, only one negative review was erroneously left on plaintiffs’ site rather than that of the defendants,” it wrote in April.

La Diabla restaurant initially sought a preliminary injunction that would have forced La Diabla Nightclub to change its name and marketing materials. But a few days before a June 4 hearing on that injunction request, the restaurant canceled the hearing without explanation.

The restaurant’s lawyers, Lisa Ritter and Deborah Ytterberg with Craig Johnson & Associates in Broomfield, didn’t return messages seeking an explanation for that and comments on the case. Neither did the nightclub’s lawyer, Okunade, who is a sole proprietor in Denver.

The matter will now move ahead towards a three-day trial in March 2025 to determine whether the trademarks of La Diabla restaurant have been infringed on by La Diabla Nightclub. The case could hinge on minutia, such as whether the devil in the nightclub’s marketing looks like the devil in the restaurant’s marketing, and whether their stylized writings are similar.

The devil, in other words, will be in the details.

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