Upstart D.C. hospitality company Babylon Group has changed the name of a nightclub it plans to open in Dupont Circle after the owner of Eighteenth Street Lounge, the previous tenant, threatened legal action over allegations that the new club was attempting to steal its identity and profit off its reputation.
Babylon Group will no longer call the incoming nightlife spot “The Lounge,” Eater has confirmed. The club, located at 1212 18th Street NW, is now set to be called Twelve After Twelve. A statement Babylon Group sent to Eater last week says that the new name is “a nod to our street address and the angel numbers ‘1212,’ which represent positivity.”
The balance of Babylon’s statement, also posted from its rebranded Instagram account on Monday, June 14, provides reasoning for the name change:
As a collective of DC natives, we saw some of our favorite venues permanently close due to the pandemic. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can help revitalize the city’s nightlife and some of those spaces. In that effort, we have put put a great deal of thought and resources into creating a new experience and don’t want there to be any confusion among so many fresh and refreshed nightlife options as we get to the other side of the pandemic.
Farid Nouri, who owns the name “Eighteenth Street Lounge” and its abbreviated “ESL,” sent Babylon Group a cease-and-desist letter in April, claiming “The Lounge” name infringes on his registered trademark and confuses the general public by inferring a connection to his storied nightlife venue that closed there last summer after a 25-year run. Shortly after Eater published a story covering Nouri’s dispute with Babylon Group, the latter company replaced branding for the Lounge on its website and Instagram account with its new identity as Twelve After Twelve.
Changing the name was Nouri’s top request from the start, threatening to pursue further legal action against Babylon Group if the new operators didn’t comply. Nouri had actively been looking to reopen Eighteenth Street Lounge elsewhere in D.C. under the same LLC, which explains his desire to protect the name; this month he solidified a new location in Blagden Alley that’s slated to open later this year.
In a statement sent to Eater, Nouri says Babylon Group’s decision to change the name is “a first step towards reconciliation,” and he congratulates the company on its new ventures, but he’d like to see more accountability.
“The fact remains that the corporation attempted to deceive the public and benefit from Eighteenth Street Lounge’s local and global legacy,” Nouri says in a statement. “That transgression merits both a public apology and additional efforts to distance themselves from ESL in concept and appearance. Defending ESL’s storied brand is more than just about intellectual property; it also honors the love and labor of all the staff and musicians of the original venue.”
Babylon Group is a relatively new D.C. hospitality conglomerate that has been snatching up shuttered clubs and restaurants all over the city, moving in fast after ESL vacated the space last summer. Part of the alleged identity theft stemmed from the fact Babylon was using ESL’s history to recruit musicians who have performed at the space in the past, Nouri’s legal counsel argued.
Twelve After Twelve plans to reactivate the space with five bars, four dance floors, and an outdoor patio with a retractable roof across 7,000 square feet. DJs and live music will be aired on a Funktion-One sound system, largely considered the best in the club business that also has a home at Shaw’s popular Flash.