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Moby Dick restaurant name too offensive for Vancouver strata

What's in a name? A lot apparently to those on a Coal Harbour strata corporation. As Paul Johnson reports, court documents reveal they refused to lease a space to a fish and chips restaurant partly because its name is Moby Dick.

The “Dick” in the classic novel Moby Dick was too offensive for one Vancouver strata council, which barred a fish and chips restaurant with that very name from opening in a downtown Vancouver property last year, according to two notices of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

The owners of the property, Moby Dick Fish and Chips restaurant franchise and the company that owned the restaurant that previously occupied the property, are all seeking financial damages from the strata corporation, which manages the residential and commercial  properties in the building. All three say they suffered financial losses after Moby Dick’s plans to lease the property last year fell through.

Moby Dick, which already has a location in White Rock, agreed to buy out the restaurant already in the building in May 2016 after that business fell on hard times.

But according to the allegations, the strata barred Moby Dick from opening because it felt its name was offensive, it feared excessive odour from deep frying fish and it didn’t like the business’ logo, among other issues.

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The property in question is located in a building on Denman Street, near Stanley Park.

Mengfa International Resources Inc., the company that owns the restaurant property said in a notice of civil claim filed on Jan. 9 that the company lost rent in the process.

Mengfa’s lawsuit comes just weeks after Moby Dick and L&H Trading Corp. filed a claim in B.C. Supreme Court against the strata for allegedly forcing Moby Dick to breach its contract with L&H.

The strata refused to allow the fish-and-chips restaurant to operate for various reasons, including that “Moby Dick’s signage and brand name would harm the image of the Strata properties,” according to Mengfa’s notice of civil claim.

“The cartoon whale on the trademark was unacceptable to the Strata,” their claim alleged.

But it was the restaurant’s name, inspired by the historic character from Herman Melville’s literary tale, that also ruffled some feathers.

“The Strata unreasonably objected to the word ‘dick’ in the name ‘Moby Dick’, on the basis that the word ‘dick’ is offensive, despite the fact that the name of the restaurant clearly refers to a well-known literary work,” said the claim.

The strata also “unreasonably objected to the possibility of litter and other debris” being dropped outside by patrons of Moby Dick and the the “prospective odour” caused by deep-frying fish and chips, the claim said.

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But Jason Scott, the strata’s manager, said the strata council disagrees with the allegations that have been made, but can’t comment further at this time, as the matter is subject to litigation.

Yuriy Makogonsky, the owner of the Moby Dick franchise, declined to comment since the matter is before the courts.

None of the claims have been proven in court and the strata corporation has yet to file statements of defense.