Highland Park, News

Ravinia Brewing requests community’s help after firing back at Ravinia Festival with counterclaims

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 2:35 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, with a statement from Ravinia Festival Association.)

The owners of Ravinia Brewing Company have turned to the community for assistance in its legal fight with Ravinia Festival.

The brewery’s social media post on Jan. 26 announced a GoFundMe campaign to support its defense against a federal lawsuit filed in October in which Ravinia Festival seeks financial “restitution” and wants the brewing company to cease using “Ravinia.”

Ravinia Brewing Company has consistently denied claims made in the lawsuit, calling them unfounded, and in its message to supporters, the brewery is requesting donations for the legal battle.

“While we are confident that the facts and rule of law are on our side, the facts and law don’t often matter if you don’t have the financial means to fight,” the message reads in part. “It is no secret that the hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. … As you can imagine — this is simply not a fight we can afford to take on without financial support. If you are able, please donate to our Legal Fund.”

The campaign set a goal of $120,000 and has raised more than $6,000 as of Tuesday, Jan. 30.

The fundraiser announcement comes on the heels of a formal response and counterclaims to the lawsuit that Ravinia Brewing Company filed on Jan. 8, signaling a continuation of the proceedings.

The crux of Ravinia Festival’s lawsuit is that Ravinia Brewing Company has failed to comply with a 2017 agreement between the two parties that allowed RBC to use “Ravinia” under certain conditions. In RBC’s response filing, it denies, among other things, that it dishonored the agreement and challenges Ravinia Festival’s description of the document.

In the document, Ravinia Brewing claims that Ravinia Festival’s “Ravinia” trademark achieved in 2011 is invalid and it is “entitled to damages” because of it. The document alleges that when Ravinia Festival applied for the trademark in 2010 it fraudulently asserted no other restaurant/catering services were using “Ravinia” at the time; however, RBC says, Ravinia Green Country Club and Ravinia BBQ and Grill were active businesses in 2010.

Additionally, RBC claims that Ravinia Festival did not attempt to “negotiate in good faith” — as the festival reportedly agreed to do in the 2018 agreement — when it had concerns about Ravinia Brewing’s use of “Ravinia” in 2023.

“Even if (Ravinia Brewing) committed material breaches of the agreement, (Ravinia Festival) had no right to rescind because they had not given (Ravinia Brewing) an opportunity to correct any breach in the process of good-faith negotiations,” the filing reads.

Ravinia Brewing is requesting financial damages as well as reimbursement for court and attorney fees.

A statement from Ravinia Festival Association did not directly address Ravinia Brewing’s allegations, but said that it is Ravinia Brewing that has avoided good-faith negotiations

“RBC continues to reject our good-faith efforts to find an amicable solution; this lawsuit is a last resort,” the statement reads. “We will continue to work to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”

The statement also reiterated the claims in the lawsuit, alleging Ravinia Brewing “acted in blatant disregard” of the two parties’ agreement and implying a connection between the brewery and the venue.

Background and previous reporting

Ravinia Festival’s roots date back to 1904, according to its website, and the Ravinia Festival Association, the nonprofit that operates the festival, was incorporated in 1936.

The term Ravinia goes back further. In 1872, a community south of a newly incorporated Highland Park was named Ravinia — after the area’s trademark ravines — according to a history of the area by Elliott Miller and published by the Ravinia Neighbors Association.

The City of Highland Park swallowed the area in 1899, but the Ravinia neighborhood remains a historic district in the city that is home to a train station, a TIF district, Ravinia Festival and numerous other businesses, including at least four others that use the Ravinia moniker: Ravinia Reading Center; Ravinia Books, Antiques, Etc.; Ravinia Barber Shop; and Ravinia Tutors.

According to the lawsuit, the Ravinia Festival Association received a federal trademark for Ravinia Festival as an entertainment and dining enterprise in 2002 and another trademark for just Ravinia in 2011.

Ravinia Brewing Company — co-owned by Kris Walker and Jeff Hoobler, a Highland Park councilmember — received a trademark for “Ravinia Brewing” in 2015, began distributing beer in 2017, and opened its Highland Park taproom and taco bar in 2018 at 582 Roger Williams Ave.

In the two parties’ agreement, the lawsuit says, RBC could use the Ravinia if it kept “Brewing Company” at a specific size on its products and included a disclaimer on marketing materials to make clear its disassociation with Ravinia Festival.

In the lawsuit, Ravinia Festival alleges the brewing company has intentionally misled consumers to believe its products are connected Ravinia Festival.

Ravinia Brewing responded to the claims with a press release, calling the suit “baseless” and saying that Ravinia Festival has a pattern of beating up on the brewery.

What next?

After receiving an extension, Ravinia Festival must respond to the counterclaims by Feb. 5, according to court filings.

A pre-settlement hearing was held on Jan. 12; however, according to court documents, “not all parties reported a preparedness for a settlement conference” and the hearing was postponed until Feb. 14, when parties reportedly will discuss the possibility of mediation.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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