Rights to Lefty O'Doul's name, memorabilia under dispute

The nasty battle over San Francisco's iconic sports bar and restaurant Lefty O'Doul's shows no signs of simmering down.

Neither the building's owner nor the tenant at Union Square are backing down from claims that they own the rights to famous hofbrau.

Nick Bovis, whose family says it has owned and run Lefty's since 1998, removed some horseshoes from retired SFPD horses that have been hanging over the doorway at Lefty O'Doul's for years.

He said he plans to take them with him when he reopens Lefty's nearby at a later date.

"I don't care how rich our landlord claims to be or how much threats or how many people he threatens to my family to my friends and tries to intimidate us we will not cave!" he said forcefully at a press conference late Monday afternoon. Bovis said his family bought Lefty Sports Bar and Restaurant at 333 Geary 19 years ago.

Now that the lease on the space is up, Jon Handlery, the building's owner says he owns the rights to Lefty's.

"I think it's an outrage," said Pat O'Doul, who is the cousin of the famous ballplayer who founded the hofbrau. Pat claims Lefty wanted the Bovises to have the restaurant, a place known through the decades for its downhome feel, hefty hot plates of corned beef and stiff Bloody Mary’s. O'Doul said the spot was actually rundown when the Bovises took over, but Nick and his father turned it around.

"It's become so amazing that the owner of the building seems to think he can steal Nick's business because he wants it and has lots of money," said O'Doul.

The battle between Bovis and Handlery turned bitter last week when Bovis announced that he was moving Lefty's to another location nearby because Handlery refused to make necessary building upgrades that would cost millions of dollars.

Handlery agreed that Bovis would move out February 3rd, but then in a twist announced that he himself would renovate, and take over Lefty's.

"It appears we're living in a new society called greed versus profit," said Joe Cotchett, who is representing Nick Bovis. He said his client is the rightful owner and has the trademark to prove it.
Handlery's spokesperson dismisses that claim.

"The current manager has secretly obtained some trademarks, we dispute the legitimacy of those trademarks," said Adam Alberti, who works for the PR firm, Sam Singer and Associates. "We believe definitively that Lefty O’Doul’s is owned by the Handlery family."

That includes the rights to the sports memorabilia inside, about 400 pieces, most of it now removed from the walls. There are autographed photos from Robin Williams, Barry Bonds: there's even an electric guitar signed by Sammy Hagar that reads, "Nick Rocks!" in gold ink.

"It's very, very hard on me on everybody... this is a wonderful, wonderful man," said a crying Stacey Sendler, who's worked at Lefty's for 23 years. Longtime employees say Bovis is giving them jobs at his other restaurants until he can reopen.

Bovis says he's not giving up the fight, but Handlery says, neither is he.