WASHINGTON -- The Rick and Morty-themed pop-up bar was shut down Friday night after Turner Broadcasting threatened the company behind it with legal action.
Drink Company, which has put on bars such as the Game of Thrones bar and the Super Mario bar in the past, posted a statement to their Facebook Friday night that Turner Broadcasting “demanded” the bar close.
CEO of Drink Company Angie Fetherston said that they’d been in talks with Turner for a few weeks and had originally reached an agreement with a few stipulations, including pushing the opening of the bar back a week to August 16.
According to Fetherston, they “followed [those stipulations] in good faith."
However, before the bar could open, things changed again.
John Mason, an intellectual property attorney who represents Drink Company, says they had verbal agreements.
That’s one reason the launch was pushed back a week from its original date. According to Mason, emailed to Turner’s attorneys on August 8 confirming what was previously agreed to over the phone.
On Monday, August 13, days before the grand opening, Mason said he received a new counter-offer from Turner asking for a $100,000 licensing fee to use the characters. He said money was never part of any previous talks.
After that, Fetherston says, Turner refused to negotiate any further, forcing the pop-up bar to close on Friday.
The CEO said she felt negotiations with Turner had taken “a turn.”
“We felt that it became about their ability to license fan-art, which is what they’re trying to create precedent for now.” She referred to the various aspects of the bar: Artists building art-installations and costumes inspired by the show.
“They [Turner] want to be able to control it and profit from it,” she said.
Mason said Turner told him they did not want consumers to be confused. This actually isn't the first “Rick and Morty” inspired bar. Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported Turner Broadcasting company gave permission for a different company to use “Rick and Morty” in an unofficial capacity. That pop- up ran for a little over two weeks. The DC based one was planned for two months.
Mason, like Fetherston, says he thinks the company is looking to control more fan tributes.
Drink Company’s pop-up bar have been around for years, putting on Christmas-themed bars and Cherry Blossom-themed bars. Their most recent bar was Royal Wedding-themed and featured cut-outs of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Bar-goers could sit on a throne and take pictures with plush corgis.
According to Fetherston, last summer they worked with HBO on stipulations for the Game of Thrones bar. They were not allowed to use the likeness of any of the actors nor were they allowed to live-stream the show. The bar closed an hour before each show was set to air, so fans could go home and watch.
“These create tons of jobs for restaurant workers…we really wanted to create that opportunity this summer for people,” Fetherston said on the pop-up bars.
On Facebook, Drink Company wrote that they had to lay off their “beloved” employees and “take a massive financial hit.” Fetherston told WUSA9 they laid off about 80 people, including bartenders, and bouncers.
For Fetherston, the Rick and Morty-theme was important to her, as a fan of the show.
“We are big fans, we do this for the fans, we did this for DC…we really tried to do something fun and beautiful,” she said.
She said it’s been difficult on everyone involved in the making of the bar,
“To me, I wanted people to see it and asking the artists that spent so much time building the art to destroy it, that’s a tough thing,” she said.
Drink Company posted the social media handles of Turner and encouraged people to let Turner know if they had something to say.
On Twitter, the backlash was swift. One user posted she planned on having her birthday party at the bar but Turner “ruined it.”
Another user said she was "disappointed" and wrote, "Rick and Morty is a show with die hard fans (clearly) trying to pay tribute to its brilliance."
Local business Right Proper Brewing offered Turner some beer on Twitter if they allowed the bar to open.
Turner Broadcasting has been reached for comment, but hasn’t responded yet.