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2 Belden Delis In Legal Spat Over Classic Chicago Restaurant Name

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Belden Deli

Leon Greenberg and Paul Leff’s new Belden Deli will open on Tuesday at 2301 N. Clark St. (Credit: Adam Harrington/CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — For many years, the Belden Deli was just a memory of an earlier time in Chicago, but now, a legal dispute is brewing between two restaurants that are both using the name.

Leon Greenberg, a New York native, and Paul Leff, a 25-year veteran of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group and most recently, Max’s Deli in Highland Park – are set to open a new Belden Deli this coming Tuesday at 2301 N. Clark St. in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The site at the ground floor of the old Tower Records building is the same location where the original Belden deli operated from 1957 to 1989.

But another unrelated Belden Deli – formally named the Belden Deli, Restaurant and Catering – opened back in February in the Maller’s Building, at 5 S. Wabash Ave. on Jewelers Row downtown. It is owned by the family that once owned the Belden North Deli – a secondary location of the original deli at Howard Street and Western Avenue in West Rogers Park.

Both restaurants are laying claim to the name, and the Lincoln Park deli is seeking an injunction demanding that the Loop restaurant drop the Belden Deli name. But Loop Belden restaurant manager Kiki Ress says, “Absolutely not.”

Greenberg says he registered the Belden Deli name with the State of Illinois back last summer, mounted a Web site, and began preparations for opening the new business. He said when he registered his trademark, the Belden Deli name had been legally “abandoned” and was no longer in use even on paper by any business.

“There was nothing there,” Greenberg said. “I’ve been in touch with the Trademark Department, and approval is probably in the next four to six weeks, because they said there was nothing there with the Belden Deli.”

But Ress said her family had gone through its own legal process to resume using the Belden Deli name – and the old logo for the restaurant with its stylized B. Her family filed for a service mark for the logo, and told officials they had been using the name since buying the Belden North some 20 years ago.

“My family has been in the business since 1992,” Ress said. The Belden North closed in 1998, she said.

But Greenberg says regardless of all that, the Belden Deli name itself was never registered by Ress’ family or anyone else. He said it was not listed by the U.S. Patent Trademark Office or the Illinois Secretary of State’s office when he sought to use it.

“We did all of our due diligence,” he said. “We’re not going to use name if there is any kind of claim to it.”

Greenberg said the Loop Belden Deli’s legal name as registered with the state is the “5 S. Wabash Deli,” and initially did not register a separate “DBA,” or “does business as” name. The Loop Belden later registered the “DBA” name “Belden Deli and Restaurant,” he said.

Greenberg said attorneys for the Lincoln Park restaurant will be suing to demand that the Loop restaurant stop using the Belden name.

But Ress says if anyone has the right to use the name, it is her family’s Loop restaurant. While Greenberg says his restaurant acquired the trademark for the Belden Deli, Ress says Greenberg and Leff never filed for a service mark like the one her family used to resume use of the old chain’s logo.

Her family even kept the menu from the old Belden Deli chain, and the menu for the new restaurant is “pretty much the same” she said.

The Web site for the Wabash Avenue restaurant presents it as a continuation of the old Belden chain. Its “welcome” page features a short article with the headline, “Belden deli restaurant returns!” and tells customers, “Welcome back to your old favorite deli restaurant.”

And by opening a new restaurant with the Belden Deli name at the old chain’s original location, Ress said, “They’re trying to ride the name of the original owners.”

Greenberg says he understands Ress’ position about her family’s connection to the Belden Deli name, since they were the last owners of the Belden. But he says he and Leff are rightful owners of the name now, and the Loop restaurant needs to stop using it.

“They never did anything legally with the name, and it’s been inactive and abandoned for 20-plus years,” he said.

Ress says her family is set to meet with attorneys later Friday on the matter. As for whether she would like Greenberg and Leff to stop using the name, she said: “We hope for a peaceful resolution. That’s about it,” and declined further comment.

The original Belden Deli at 2315 N. Clark St. was a 24-hour restaurant located in a small strip mall at the northeast corner of Clark and Belden, which also housed a Jewel grocery store.

The original Belden Deli and its sister locations had been owned by brothers Chris and Sam Markos and their father, Peter, since 1973. After the original deli closed, the remaining Belden delis were sold to separate owners, according to published reports.

Meanwhile, the building that housed the original Belden was replaced in the early 1990s, with the Belden Centre, a condo and retail complex once known for its Tower Records store, where Greenberg and Leff’s new Belden Deli will be located.

Adam Harrington, cbschicago.com

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