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October 26, 2023

Gregory's Bar in Somers Point relinquishes 'Taco Tuesday' trademark, ending underdog fight with Taco Bell

The restaurant's owner say the media attention given to his 'David versus Goliath' battle brought a new generation of people to his business and others in the Jersey Shore town

Food & Drink Tacos
Gregory's Taco Tuesday trademark Franki Rudnesky/PhillyVoice

Gregory's Restaurant & Bar in Somers Point has given up its trademark on the phrase 'Taco Tuesday' in New Jersey, about six months after Taco Bell filed a petition to cancel it.

After a six-month-long tussle with Taco Bell — one that included legal proceedings and marketing jabs — Gregory's Restaurant & Bar in Somers Point has released its claim on the "Taco Tuesday" trademark in New Jersey. The alliterative phrase now can be freely used by all restaurants in the United States.

In May, Taco Bell filed legal petitions asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the "Taco Tuesday" trademarks held by Gregory's and the fast food chain Taco John's so that all businesses could use it without repercussions.

Taco John's, which held the trademark in 49 states, let go of its rights in July. But Gregory's held on in a battle that owner Greg Gregory likened to "David versus Goliath" or "Davy Crockett at the Alamo."

The family-owned restaurant, at 900 Shore Road, gave up the fight last Friday. Though Gregory declined to speak on the "ongoing process" involved with the trademark, he stood clear on the future of Taco Tuesday at his Jersey Shore establishment.

"Taco Tuesday is going to be here (at Gregory's) for the rest of my life and beyond, I'm sure," he said Thursday.

Taco Bell called its trademark victory a win for taco lovers across the country.

"When we set out to free Taco Tuesday, we did it for all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos," said Sean Tresvant, Taco Bell's chief global brand and strategy officer (and incoming CEO). "Taco Bell wants everyone to have the opportunity to celebrate Taco Tuesday, including Gregory's Restaurant and Bar. Thanks to Gregory's choice to relinquish the trademark registration, New Jersey businesses and fans can fully enjoy Taco Tuesday, effective immediately."

Taco Bell is offering each rewards member in New Jersey one free Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco on Tuesday, Nov. 21 through the Taco Bell app. New Jersey was excluded from Taco Bell's celebratory Taco Tuesday promotions over the summer, when Taco John's gave up its claim in 49 states but Gregory's held on.

Gregory's Bar first used the phrase Taco Tuesday in 1979 when it began serving tacos solely on Tuesdays. The idea for the weekly special came while Gregory was working at a Center City bar – before he had taken over Gregory's from his father. He said he had walked to the Gallery for food research and noticed long lines of people waiting to order tacos. Gregory does not enjoy tacos himself, but thought they could be popular with the customers at his family's business — a hunch that proved correct.

After Gregory began serving up taco deals on Tuesdays, one of his college professors suggested he trademark the phrase and did the legwork to get it approved. In 1982, Gregory's was granted a federal registration for the Taco Tuesday trademark, meaning no other company in the U.S. could legally use it. 

But the family-run business failed to renew the trademark properly and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled it. That allowed Taco John's in 1989 to trademark the phrase everywhere except New Jersey. Gregory's held on to the trademark in New Jersey after some legal proceedings, and it has been running Taco Tuesday deals ever since.

Gregory estimates his restaurant has served more than 2 million tacos through the years. The recipe has stayed the same since the late 1970s, and the salsa recipe hasn't changed since it was found in a 1978 Playboy magazine.

In July, Gregory vowed to keep the Taco Tuesday trademark for as long as financially possible after Taco John's left the fight against Taco Bell. At the time, Taco John's said it preferred not to spend the legal fees required to hang on to the trademark, and instead chose to donate money to charity. Gregory noted that many of his Taco Tuesday events had benefitted charities over the years.

Gregory did not say what led him to relinquish his restaurant's rights to the trademark, but he said the media spotlight on the restaurant has been positive for business. People who read about the Taco Tuesday battle flocked to Gregory's for a taste of its tacos, even though the restaurant's Taco Tuesday deals take a hiatus over the summer.

"We definitely had a really terrific summer this summer with a lot of new people coming in because they had heard and people coming in not even realizing that Taco Tuesday didn't start until the fall," Gregory said. "And it ended up being such an onslaught that we ended up offering a 'Taco Tuesday Lite,' so to speak, so that the people coming in weren't disappointed. So it was, in fact, a much busier summer than we had expected."

Gregory — whose restaurant is located on a booming Somers Point street that includes staples like Josie Kelly's Public House and Charlie's Bar & Restaurant — said the attention has benefitted the whole town.

"We're living the dream that Taco Tuesday and Taco Thursday has been revitalized," Gregory said. "But it's nice too because we got a new generation of people coming in. And it's just been good for the whole town. The rest of the guys around, you know, where we're located ... Everybody felt that they had some business coming in from people that saw Taco Tuesday and saw Somers Point, they wanted to come down and see what's going on."

In July, Gregory's was honored by the Somers Point city council with a resolution recognizing the bar's status as the original home of Taco Tuesday, and commending its fight against larger corporations to maintain the trademark. 

Gregory's has been selling Taco Tuesday T-shirts at the restaurant. Gregory said the restaurant has received requests to ship the shirts to supporters as far away as Idaho and California.

Gregory's opened in 1946, and Gregory is a third-generation owner coming from a family of "saloon keepers." His sons mostly run the restaurant now, and his grandchildren work there in the summer, making Gregory's a five-generation family business. 

"We really got good support from the media," Gregory said. "I think that it helps, the fact that they realize that here in America, it's good to be the little guy once in a while."

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