A Vancouver lawsuit has made the name of an iconic White Rock restaurant an international talking point.
Moby Dick’s Fish and Chips attempted to lease a harbourside restaurant property to establish a franchise for the brand in Vancouver last year.
But that attempt was allegedly blocked by a strata council that – according to a lawsuit filed last week – claimed that one word of the Moby Dick name was an offensive term.
Media reports of the case this week underlined the fact that the restaurant was named for the classic novel by Herman Melville.
They have resulted in viral social-media posts and even a story in the Washington Post, which erroneously changed the name of the restaurant’s home town to ‘Whitewater.’
Facebook comments from Semiahmoo Peninsula residents, who have known Moby Dick’s as a fixture on White Rock’s waterfront since 1975, have voiced humorous indignation at the alleged objections of the strata council.
But restaurant owner Yuriy Makogonsky – while he declined to comment in detail on the case because it is under litigation – told Peace Arch News that the hubbub about the name is only part of the issue.
“All the news (reports) didn’t deliver the whole story,” said Makogonsky, who bought the White Rock restaurant in 2014.
“The bottom line is that a strata intruded into the relationship of a business and a property owner,” he said, adding that the parties involved are “working hard on trying to settle the whole thing out of court.”
According to court documents, the lawsuit was filed Jan. 9 by Mengfa International Resources Inc., owners of the Denman Street commercial property.
A notice of claim for damages alleges the strata council for the building unfairly interfered with a transaction in which Moby Dick would have assumed the lease for the property.
The previous lessees, operators of an Asian-fusion restaurant, The Change, had run into financial difficulties mid-way in a five-year lease and had sought to sell their restaurant business.
In an agreement that was supposed to complete at the end of last July, Moby Dick would have bought the restaurant business and entered into a new lease with Mengfa.
This didn’t happen, the lawsuit alleges, because of objections and delays on the part of the strata council.
Among objections the strata council raised – according to the lawsuit – were that the traditional Moby Dick signage and brand name would harm the image of the strata properties and depreciate their value, that the operation would increase litter and cause possible infractions of city regulations and bylaws through odour and fumes, and that signage and proposed renovations did not meet strata bylaws.
The lawsuit claims that the property owners and Moby Dick had made every effort to address the objections, but in spite of “numerous signage and renovation proposals” to “appease the strata council,” it had continued to delay a decision beyond deadlines for completion of the deal.
The lawsuit asks for damages, declarations that the strata’s actions were “significantly unfair and unreasonably prejudicial” and an immediate order to approve the Moby Dick proposal.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The strata council has until Jan. 30 to file a formal response.