Stubb’s vs. Stubb’s
The BBQ sauce brand owned by McCormick will retain the name Stubb’s, while the restaurant and live music venue in Austin will not.
Back in June 2015, the Stubb’s line of BBQ sauce, rubs, and marinades was acquired by spice-and-seasoning giant McCormick for a cool $100 million. That was good news for One World Foods, Inc., the company that has owned the retail brand since the mid-1990s—but it caused complications for Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, the restaurant and live music venue of the same name. The two Stubb’s started as one company, and for decades the arrangement was a happy one: Stubb’s sauce was sold in supermarkets around the country, as the Stubb’s Bar-B-Q restaurant served up smoked meats and live music. It seemed like the co-branded association was helpful for both.
Around the time that McCormick got involved, though, the relationship got a little less friendly. Stubb’s (the restaurant) continued its tendency to sell Stubb’s-branded meat in bars around Austin—they had long been operating a stand at the downtown bar Mean Eyed Cat—which is owned by Stubb’s Austin Restaurant Co.—but expanded that year to include service at Graceland Grocery and Lala’s Little Nugget, also owned by the company. Under new ownership, One World Foods sued, claiming that the ensuing confusion among customers would do “irreparable harm” to the brand that just sold for nine figures.
All of this was complicated by the fact that the split between Stubb’s and Stubb’s was done on a handshake deal—both parties agreed to share the branding, but expansion beyond Stubb’s BBQ (and later Mean Eyed Cat) doesn’t appear to have been part of the deal.
As of Friday, the suit has been resolved—the Stubb’s under the ownership with an annual revenue of $4 billion will emerge victorious as the One True Stubb’s. Although the company hasn’t yet given a timeline, the Austin-based restaurant and music venue will be changing its name as part of a settlement in the suit (early reports say that the new name could be Liberty Lunch). According to the Austin American-Statesman, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q (the sauce) is considering opening a competing restaurant at some point in the future.
We’ve no idea what this means for the smash 2006 album Live At Stubb’s by Matisyahu, or the similarly titled 2003 album by Ween, or if the new restaurant owned by McCormick will be packed with reggae and alt-rock fans who bear positive associations with the name, should it eventually open. We don’t even know if that restaurant will have a live music venue. What we do know is that the unusual Stubb’s vs. Stubb’s chapter in Texas BBQ history has come to a close.