Except for Tesla-loving contrarians, most of us consider Thomas Edison a beloved part of our American heritage. But apparently, there are people who like him so much they are laying claim to his name and identity.
This past weekend I stopped by one of my Near Northside favorites, Edison, to check out its new summer menu. The casual, local hot spot, offering up both non-traditional items like its duck & pancakes and a damn fine cocktail program (the Charles Proper is a current fave), is making a real name for itself. Maybe too much of a name, according to the cease and desist letter it just received from lawyers representing a Los Angeles-based company called Kinetescape Holdings LLC.
The letter ordered the restaurant to stop using the name Edison and exclude any references to inventor Thomas Edison. Kinetescape owns a prohibition-style cocktail bar and burlesque house in Los Angeles called The Edison. Unlike Houston's Edison, they are devoted enough to the theme to have both Edison and Tesla Fries on the menu.
It is clear that Edison does take some of its inspiration from Thomas Edison, as evidenced by its pervasive lightbulb theme, the portrait of the icon that hangs on the restaurant's wall, and the kitschy Mr. and Mrs. Edison names on the bathroom doors. However, the popular eatery's name originates from its location on Edison Street at the corner of Patton, and draws its theme just as much from its Near Northside neighborhood as it does from the inventor.
General manager Danny Kirgan says he and his team were taken by surprise when they received the letter, not just because the California company had taken notice, but because they didn't think the inventor was a major part of the restaurant's theme. Some of Kinetescapes' demands are indeed surprising, even laughable, like an order to remove any use of the color ochre—no, we couldn't find that connection to Edison, either.
"We are humbled that the success of what we have created here in Houston in a short period of time has made its way across the country to California," says Kirgan. In order to avoid litigation, Kirgan says Edison will now be known as Edison & Patton. The lightbulb design in the logo will also be removed.