In 1968 C.B. Stubblefield opened his first Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q restaurant in Lubbock, Texas after serving in the Korean War. His food soon gained notoriety, attracting musicians like Joe Ely as loyal patrons. After garnering some national attention, Stubb moved his business to Austin in the mid-eighties and eventually began bottling his sauces out of the kitchen of Joe and Sharon Ely. As the story goes, Ely took the famed sauce to share with the staff of Late Night David Letterman show, and Letterman himself was so impressed, he invited Stubblefield to be a Late Night guest. The bottled sauces began hitting grocers in 1992.
Since the mid-1990s the Stubb’s BBQ sauces, rubs, and marinades have been owned and manufactured by One World Foods, Inc. Back in July 2015, spice-giant McCormick Co. Inc. acquired 100% of One World Foods Inc. specifically so it could own the Stubb’s brand as part of McCormick’ push to diversify its product line. McCormick purchased One World Foods for a whopping $100 million in cash. Soon, the rub tides began to turn.
In November of 2015 One World Foods Inc. filed a lawsuit against Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co. alleging that the latter was not allowed to operate any Stubb’s-branded restaurants outside of its primary location on Red River and it’s small, 2nd location inside the Mean Eyed Cat on West 5th. The suit asked the restaurant group to cease it’s then-newly opened off-site location at Graceland Grocery off W Hwy 290 and halt plans to open a 4th location at La La’s Little Nugget on Justin Ln close to Burnet. Stubb’s Restaurant co-owners Jeff Waughtal and Matt Luckie had recently become part-owners of the North Austin yuletide gem and Mean-Eyed Cat is owned by Stubb’s Restaurant Co. As evidenced by their continued business, the request was rejected.
One World Food also alleges that this suit is tied to an oral agreement made back in 1996 between the two companies that restricted the restaurant’s licensing of the Stubb’s name. But the keyword there is “oral agreement.”
Again that purchase and lawsuit both happened back in 2015. Fast forward to today, or last Thursday, rather, and the settlement reached after two years of volatility. McCormick will gain exclusive rights to the Stubb’s name, so all four of the restaurant’s locations and Stubb’s amphitheater will have to change its name. Several sources reported Friday that the company had filed to reserve the name Liberty Lunch for future use. Seasoned Austinites know Liberty Lunch as the crusty, beloved dive venue that closed down in 1999 on a lot that has now become the newly-branded Second Street District. News of the filing evoked a spectrum of reactions from the community, and no matter where you fall on that spectrum, it might be important to remember that after Liberty Lunch closed, they almost relocated and became Liberty Lunch at Stubb’s.
After all was said and done and the agreement reached, and One World Foods put a huge stinger in the affair, and you probably guessed it: in the future, they would like to open a Stubb’s restaurant.