Restaurant owner fined $89,000 for showing some Habs spirit
Published Monday, May 16, 2011 11:00PM EDT
MONTREAL - A franchisee of a Lebanese restaurant chain has been hit with a massive fine by the National Hockey League for trying to drum up some team spirit for the hometown Montreal Canadiens.
And Fadl Issa says he's not paying it.
The owner of the Basha restaurant on Drummond and Ste-Catherine – just a few blocks from the Bell Centre – decided on the urging of his children top put up a large banner on the outside wall of his restaurant to show support for the team in December.
The banner showed a man wearing a Canadiens jersey and slicing shawarma with a sword. Underneath the cartoon-like caricature was a large "Go Habs Go" message.
Issa quickly received a letter from an NHL lawyer telling him he was violating league copyrights and to remove the banner. At first, he simply painted over the Canadiens logo on the shawarma slicer's jersey, but another letter quickly followed in January telling Issa that "Go Habs Go" also represents a trademark.
So Issa painted over the message at the bottom of the banner, before finally deciding in March to simply take the banner down.
Then, he received a letter from the NHL demanding $89,000, or $1,000 for every day the banner was up.
"We cannot afford it, there is no way on earth we could pay this money," Issa said. "We're not a big company."
This was not the first time the NHL flexed its legal muscle to protect the trademarks of its member clubs.
Last month in Vancouver a car dealership received a letter of demand from NHL lawyers asking him to remove a sign in his window that said "Go Canucks Go!!" alongside the team's vintage logo. Underneath the message, the dealership urged passersby to "Honk if you're a fan."
The owner of the car dealership, Doug Lum, received a letter from the NHL's New York office to take it down or face a fine.
Ultimately, Lum removed the logo and changed the sign to read "Go _ _ nucks Go!!"
With files from Canadian Press
Fadl Issa holds a photo of the banner he had placed on the side of his building to support the Montreal Canadiens and which led to an $89,000 fine from the NHL