Beaufort News

Beaufort has settled a legal dispute over popular festivals. Here’s what it means

Get a crash course in shrimp and grits with these Lowcountry chefs

Courtney and Chas Thorne, co-owners of the Red Rooster Cafe and Nautilus Seafood and Grill, share one of their shrimp and grits recipes in the kitchen of their restaurant on Thursday, April 21, 2016 in Beaufort.
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Courtney and Chas Thorne, co-owners of the Red Rooster Cafe and Nautilus Seafood and Grill, share one of their shrimp and grits recipes in the kitchen of their restaurant on Thursday, April 21, 2016 in Beaufort.

Some of Beaufort’s most popular festivals will be back in the hands of the local chamber of commerce after a legal dispute with the city.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce will again operate the Beaufort Shrimp Festival and Taste of Beaufort and the city will return the event’s trademarked names to the nonprofit business organization as the result of a lawsuit settled this month. The Chamber sued the city in September over ownership of the festivals, alleging in federal court the city had infringed on the organization’s constitutional rights in denying a request to operate the Shrimp Festival last October.

City and chamber officials said in a joint statement released at the City Council meeting Tuesday night that the sides had “amicably resolved” the dispute. The case was dismissed June 3, court records show.

“The Chamber and City look forward to a new chapter in their relationship, working together for the businesses and residents of this community,” said the statement read by council member Mike McFee after a closed-door meeting related to the lawsuit.

No other details of the settlement were included in the statement. City officials declined comment Tuesday, citing conditions of the settlement agreement.

In the court papers files in September, the Chamber sought the return of the trademarked names and for damages and legal fees. The organization had also objected to the city asking for 10 percent of the festival profits.

City manager Bill Prokop said at the time the city had trademarked the names to protect them from being registered and sold by a private company and to ensure the festivals remain in Beaufort.

The city was defended in the suit by city attorney Bill Harvey and Charleston law firm Anderson Reynolds and Stephens. Prokop said he doesn’t yet know what the lawsuit cost the city to defend because legal work hasn’t finished and he hasn’t seen invoices.

While the dispute was ongoing, the city organized and hosted the Shrimp Festival in October and the Taste of Beaufort in May.

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