Kerry Krahn, owner of the Wellington Social House downtown Chilliwack, is looking to his customers for a new name following a cease and desist letter from the competition. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

B.C. restaurant caught in dispute over franchise’s trademarked ‘socialhouse’ name

Browns Socialhouse says its trademarked the name, demanding a Chilliwack business make changes

When Kerry and Claudette Krahn took over an iconic, cornerstone business of downtown Chilliwack, they wanted a name to fit their laid back style.

They came up with Wellington Social House, a fitting name with a nod to the historic street they’re on, and the inviting atmosphere they’re known to create inside the restaurants they’ve owned. So they ordered their sign, menus, business cards, and got on with taking over the popular eatery, attached to the Royal Hotel. They also run the Royal’s cafe.

Business took off instantly, and their musical friends are delighted to have a new venue to call home. But it didn’t take long for the bad news to arrive. The Krahns received a registered letter in the mail from Browns Socialhouse back in mid-November, informing them that the term ‘socialhouse’ is copyrighted and they were in violation of a trademark.

They had to agree to cease and desist.

The Krahns had never imagined that such common words would be copyrighted, and they aren’t alone. Browns has had at least one other restaurant change their name. In 2013, a Prince George barbecue restaurant received the same letter, and agreed to drop the “social house” part of the name. Bruce Fox, executive VP with the Browns Restaurant Group says they don’t discuss individual circumstances, but with more than 60 restaurants across western Canada, their obligation is to franchise owners who pay a licencing fee to use the trademarks.

“Often they are mis-informed about trademark rules and have no idea it is protected,” he says of independent restaurateurs. “Once they discover how things work they voluntarily find a new name to do business under.”

And that’s what the Krahns have decided to do. But they want to have a little fun with it. After all, that’s what they’re all about. They’ve decided to launch a Facebook contest, starting Friday, Jan. 26. They want their customers to help them come up with a great name. A name that suits the business, the building, the atmosphere, the whole thing.

“We liked the idea of ‘social house’ and what it represents,” Krahn says. “We don’t want it to be a bar. It’s a gathering place and we’ve really accomplished that. It has that kind of feel.”

They’ve had great music nights, with world-class jazz music by Cory Weeds, piano nights with Trevor McDonald, and Friday night live music, too. Soon, they’ll have Classic Sounds coming in Saturday afternoons spinning vinyl while the kitchen serves up hearty slices of pizza.

Krahn is a musician himself, and jumps in to play on Friday nights here and there. He is also a big supporter of local businesses, partnering with the likes of Smits and Co.w, Produce Gone Wild, Johnston’s Pork, and Fraser Valley Duck and Goose, as well as Old Yale Brewing.

To help christen the Wellington Social House with a new name, visit them on their Facebook page on their current name.

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