Granny Annies tells Sunderland bar to change its name
A Northern Ireland pub chain has warned it will take legal action over a trademark row with a Sunderland bar if it does not change its name.
The Granny Annies group runs three bars here - in Limavady, Londonderry and Belfast - as well as five other pubs under other names. In total the company employs around 500 people in the province.
Known for its chic style, the chain created by Limavady brothers Willis and Ryan McLaughlin made headlines when it took over five JD Wetherspoon pubs last November as part of a major expansion.
But the bar's English namesake - Grannie Annie's - has raised eyebrows using a variation of the trademarked name and appearing to mimic several of the Northern Ireland pubs' features.
The Sunderland firm opened last Friday after six months of renovation.
Like all three of the Northern Ireland Granny Annies pubs, it also features old furniture attached upside down to the ceiling.
Its branding also includes a side profile of an elderly woman drawn in brown on a white background with her hair in a bun similar to the Northern Ireland firm's registered logo.
Previously known as 'The Smugglers', the pub based just metres from the beach in Sunderland was taken over by its new owners last December and rebranded by current owner Stephen Ski.
The Northern Ireland firm's trademark was registered on February 20 last year.
Stephen Ski was unavailable for comment.
However, Mr Ski has said that he named the bar after his mother Anne Karczewski from Hebburn in north-east England.
Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said it was likely that the Granny Annies brand would eventually look at ways to make it across to Great Britain.
He said: "Their rate of expansion has been phenomenal.
"I would think that they would want to protect the brand they have worked so hard to build up in case they want that to become an option."