Cabo’s In Court

Sammy Hagar’s Red Head Inc. has filed a federal court suit against a developer over what had become a red-headed stepchild of sorts for Hagar – the former Cabo Wabo Cantina in Fresno, Calif.

Filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Dec. 22, the suit claims Milton Barbis’ Rock Taco LLC, which built and operated the location in the financially troubled Granite Park entertainment development in the city, has damaged the Red Rocker’s reputation.

The 79-page suit also lists multiple complaints including trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, false endorsement and breach of contract.

“Rock Taco has breached the license agreement (the “License Agreement”) by among other things failing to pay any royalties and refusing to provide books and records needed to perform audits required by the license,” the suit says.

“The mismanagement by defendant and its principal Barbis, their failure to pay employees, vendors, lenders and even the city of Fresno, and the poor quality of goods and services they have offered under the Cabo Wabo brand have denigrated and continue to devalue the Cabo Wabo brand and the name and likeness of Sammy Hagar with which the Cabo Wabo brand is inextricably associated.”

While Barbis is not specifically named as a defendant in the filing, the suit notes that he has “at all times acted as the manager of Rock Taco and the Fresno Cabo Wabo.”

The suit also alleges that during the entire time the venue was in operation (it opened last August), Rock Taco only provided one royalty check, which was subsequently refused payment by the bank.

In a statement in December, Hagar explained he had no choice but to “take action to end his relationship with Fresno Rock Taco.”

“If the owners of the current license in Fresno intend to keep the location open … it will not be under the Cabo Wabo brand.”

Barbis recently rebranded the building, giving it a blues theme. The club booked a successful Tommy Castro concert but subsequently canceled one by Elvin Bishop.

Seeking damages, costs and attorney’s fees, the suit also requests that Rock Taco be permanently enjoined from using the Cabo Wabo trademarks, or any similar trademarks that could cause confusion or public misunderstanding about the venue.

Rock Taco issued a response to the injunction request Dec. 29, claiming the use of all Cabo trademarks had already been discontinued, and that the failure to make the royalty payments was in fact a conscious decision in light of “multiple serious breaches by RHI and the damages caused by RHI and Mr. Hagar.”

The company has until Feb. 18 to respond in full to the suit.