A Tale of Two Boutique Eat Shops

No divorce is pretty, and some are less unpretty than others. The split over control of Far Western Manhattan establishment Boutique Eat Shop, or B.E.S., seems destined to get downright ugly. Venom behind the scenes has reached the lawyeristic level, and remaining management and the departing discontented both claim they each are the rightful owner of the B.E.S. name and logo.

B.E.S. has a history of trouble, dating from its life as Opus 22 and then Mr. West, and it would be easy to blame the location (most do when speaking ill of the joint). More recently, showrunner Patrick Duffy has exited the business in a cloud of ill will, much to the apparent relief of remaining boss Edward Lee.

Thinking ahead, Duffy filed a trademark claim on the B.E.S. name and sigil back in November 2010. After the breakup, his lawyer informed his ex-colleagues that they had until May 31 to cease using the name and mark on the current B.E.S. business; they have declined. Lee and his partners plan to contest the trademark filing, claiming the B.E.S. name and marks are their property. While they have yet to offer documentation to support their counter-claim, they characterize Duffy’s trademark filing as “fraudulent.”

For his part, Duffy has already moved on, taking a new job as creative director at Albert Trummer’s Theater Bar. When asked if he planned to open up his own version of B.E.S., he responded cagily, “I believe that I own the mark and that I am proceeding accordingly. I will act lawfully in all circumstances.”

Edward Lee: B.E.S. Not Closing, Not Dying

Love and business affairs often end badly. The perfect stranger or lifelong friend can become a person that you never want to talk to again. Such is life. The pressures of club/restaurant world are often too much to endure, and the perfect arrangement becomes imperfect. The other day, Patrick Duffy called me to tell me about the end of his era at B.E.S., a restaurant he fronted, hawked, and curated quite publicly. I wrote about it under the incorrect assumption that Patrick’s departure meant the end of B.E.S. His era, it turns out, is not the end of B.E.S. His old pal and partner Edward Lee tells me that B.E.S. will be just fine, thank you very much. Eddie and I go way back, and I have always found him to be a professional, honest, and a reliable friend. I asked him a few questions about life after Mr. Duffy.

So the rumors of the demise of B.E.S. are greatly exaggerated. Patrick Duffy has left, but you’re still open. Correct. We are very much still open and managing sold-out brunches and dinners, and we have a fantastic new lunch menu. We have begun delivery service which caters to many of the galleries, local businesses, and surrounding neighborhood. Business has never been better.

What will Patrick’s departure mean? The staff morale, kitchen efficiency, quality of food and service, and the overall atmosphere of B.E.S. has never been better than it is today. 95% of the ownership is the same as the day we opened.

What changes will be made? We continue to rotate local artists and present their work. Currently we are showcasing Kevin Fey, who was a graduate of Cooper Union. The burlesque shows that were once presented at B.E.S. will no longer be, and we will present entertainment such as a jazz trio from the Manhattan School of Music at certain seatings. We also will be showcasing Broadway stars such as Tony nominees Chad Kimball, Isabel Keating, Alison Fraser, and others. We will also continue our reading series; next up is Marlo Thomas. All dates TBA. Watch our website!

Will the name remain? Absolutely. We are B.E.S. We are Boutique Eat Shop. We have no intention of changing our name.

Will someone new come in to be the face of the place? We strive to provide excellent food and service in a pleasing environment. One person does not make a dining experience successful. It takes a team, and at B.E.S. we now have the collective intelligence to make this a reality.

Is the location as negative as I painted it, or are there advantages to being off the beaten path? What have you learned from this experience? Our clientele speaks for itself. We remain very busy with regulars, which we love, and gallery foot traffic as well as walk-ins from the High Line and Chelsea Piers. Those who know us, love us. Those who find us are happy they did. And what have we learned? With organization and a dedicated team, dinner can be served.