Taco John's — a chain that has seen at least three efforts to expand into Oklahoma fail over the past 25 years — is ordering owners of downtown's Iguana Mexican Grill to quit using the phrase "Taco Tuesday" to promote its weekly $1 dollar taco nights.
"Taco Tuesday" was introduced in 2009 to celebrate the Iguana Mexican Grill's first anniversary and was an instant hit thanks to its spread via online social media and creation of a party atmosphere on what is traditionally a slower evening for downtown restaurants.
Ryan Parrott, executive chef at the Iguana, broke the news over the weekend that a national chain, which he confirmed is Taco John's, had its attorneys send a letter demanding that the restaurant quit using the phrase.
"They have a nationwide trademark," Parrott said. "We had considered trying to fight them or work an agreement with them since they're not in Oklahoma. But we decided to stop using it and change the name. But we won't stop the event."
Parrott is asking fans on Twitter and Facebook to help come up with a new name for the promotion at the restaurant, which is located at 9 NW 9 and anchors Steve Mason's Ninth Street development. Some fans responded angrily to Taco John's and insisted they'll keep referring to the night as "Taco Tuesday."
"Obviously I don't have any control over what anybody says or thinks," Parrott said. "If they want to call it 'Taco Tuesday,' they can. I just can't."
No success in state
Taco John's, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., has 425 locations in the United States, including restaurants in all states surrounding Oklahoma. The fast food chain previously had locations at Quail Springs Mall in the 1980s, and later in Edmond and Norman. All of the attempts to expand into Oklahoma were short-lived.
Taco John's spokeswoman, Renee Middlton, said she had no information about whether the chain was wishing to retry expanding into Oklahoma, but added protecting the phrase was important to the company regardless of whether it has a presence in the state.
"Taco Tuesday is hugely important to us," Middleton said. "We have owned the trademark since 1989. It's a brand icon for us. It's mentioned in conjunction with Taco John's — that and potato ole's."
Middleton said "Taco Tuesday" was first used by the chain in February 1982. But a Laguna Beach, Calif., restaurant, Tortilla Flats, owns the website www.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records confirm Taco John's registered the Taco Tuesday phrase in 1989 -- and that the Trademark applies in all states except New Jersey.
A manager at the Tortilla Flats who declined to give his name responded they own the trademark for Taco Tuesday, and that disputes over usage of the phrase are well-known within the restaurant industry.
Casey Cornett, who works downtown with Brenda Jones Public Relations, said he doubts the move by Taco John's will hurt the weekly special at the Iguana Mexican Grill.
Cornett said he doesn't believe the phrase belongs to any one restaurant after seeing numerous businesses using the term via Twitter hash tags.