Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Elvis Presley Enterprises Takes Gloves off against the Velvet Elvis

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Elvis Presley Enterprises Takes Gloves off against the Velvet Elvis

Article excerpt

HOUSTON -- One thing's certain in the legal battle between Barry Capece and Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc.: Somebody's going to have a blue Christmas.

Capece owns a Houston bar called the Velvet Elvis. In a trial starting today in Houston, he will defend the bar's name -- as well his right to hang a velvet painting of the King behind the bandstand -- from accusations that he is ripping off the late singer's estate with what Elvis Presley Enterprises calls a "tacky bar."

Capece maintains the name is a parody designed to capture the bar's "Las Vegas-bordello" atmosphere. "We're a cheesy place intentionally," he said in the smoke-stained lounge, whose decor includes velvet paintings of voluptuous nudes and dogs playing poker. "Elvis Presley has a reputation for having bad taste and not knowing about it, and this place plays on that." Elvis Presley Enterprises begs to differ. The business, which was set up to benefit the singer's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, says the lounge presents unfair competition to a planned chain of Elvis Presley-theme restaurants. Worse, it erodes the value of one of rock and roll's most valuable franchises. In court papers filed in the Houston case, Elvis Presley Enterprises said it took in more than $20 million in revenue over the past five years from licensees who made everything from Elvis Presley busts to bath towels with the King's likeness. It's not shy about suing to protect that revenue stream: Among other targets, Elvis Presley Enterprises once sued a London fan club. So far, Presley's attorneys may have met their match in Capece, however, a Pennsylvania-born entertainment lawyer who opened the first Velvet Elvis lounge in 1991. For one thing, Capece has a federal trademark on the name. "I saved the name so nobody else could use it," said Capece, who has opened a second lounge in Dallas -- called the Velvet E until the litigation blows over -- and has plans to open similar ones in Denver and New York. Elvis Presley Enterprises lawyers acknowledge that they saw Capece's trademark application in December 1992 and did nothing. They say they waited because Capece closed the bar in 1993 and they saw no point in suing him until he reopened in a new location in July 1994. …

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