Handlery family sues over Lefty O’Doul’s ownership

The owners of the building that houses the well-known and now hotly disputed Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant near San Francisco’s Union Square Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the family that runs it demanding a return of the baseball memorabilia that lines its walls.

The Handlery family said it is asking the court to confirm its claim that it owns the hofbrau restaurant at 333 Geary St. and all of its contents and prevent JGX Inc., the company running it, from removing any additional property.

The lawsuit is the result of a growing dispute with Nick Bovis, whose family firm has run the restaurant since the 1990s and claims ownership of the name and all of the contents.

Bovis announced last week that he planned to close the restaurant Feb. 3, after he was unable to secure a new lease in the space it has occupied since 1958, and reopen it at a nearby location before the end of the year.

He says his family holds multiple trademarks on the name Lefty O’Douls, dating back as far as 2008, and most of the memorabilia was given to his family personally.

Much of that memorabilia has already been removed from the walls of the restaurant as it prepares for closure.

The Handlery family maintains that Bovis’ firm is just managing the restaurant they own.

Sam Singer, a spokesman for the Handlery family, said:

“The outgoing management company at the bar and restaurant, Nick Bovis, and their agents have taken memorabilia that doesn’t belong to them. …  In baseball, stealing a base is applauded. But we’re not playing baseball here and taking property that doesn’t belong to you in real life has consequences.”

The Handlery family has said that after the restaurant’s closure on Feb. 3, they plan to renovate and reopen with the same name and, crucially for an iconic and historic restaurant, with the same décor and memorabilia.

Bovis could not immediately be reached for comment today but said Monday that he would “not let Lefty’s be handed over to corporate greed.”

He has assembled a legal team led by well-known local attorney Joseph Cotchett, and maintains there is nothing in the lease to support the Handlerys’ claim to ownership of the restaurant’s name or contents.

Lefty O’Doul’s, named after the famous baseball player and manager who founded it, first opened on Powell Street in the 1940s before moving to its current location in 1958.