The massive white marble lions flanking the entrance to Mr. K's Chinese restaurant will remain the sole kings of K Street, at least temporarily, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green acted yesterday to block a Chinese restaurant scheduled to open later this month across the street from Mr. K's from placing an identical pair of four-ton, hand-carved lions in front of its doorway.
Letting Hunan Rose set lions in front of its entrance -- less than 150 feet from Mr. K's -- would pose the risk of confusing customers who associate the statues with Mr. K's, Green ruled in granting the preliminary injunction.
While "plaintiff's lions do not serve the same purpose as McDonald's golden arches," Green said, the beasts could mislead even the sophisticated up-scale diners both restaurants are designed to attract into believing the two are affiliated.
Lawyers for Hunan Rose, 2020 K St. NW, had argued that lions are traditionally placed at the entrances of Chinese establishments to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. In any case, they noted, the Hunan Rose lions would be painted gold while those outside Mr. K's, at 2121 K St., are white.
"It may be that lions adorn public buildings in China and have made their way to the United States and the Washington metropolitan area along with other Chinese cultural artifacts," Green wrote in a 15-page opinion.
But she noted that Mr. K's had spent nearly half its $120,000 advertising budget on flyers and other promotional material showing the lions, and that restaurant critics had mentioned the lions in reviews of Mr. K's.
The battle of the K Street lions is part of a larger lawsuit by the owner of Mr. K's, Hunan Lion and House of Hunan accusing the owner of Hunan Rose, Hunan at Pavilion, Hunan Express and Hunan restaurant in Rockville of deliberately deceiving the public by using the rival chain's distinctive oxblood coloring, lettering and Chinese symbols on menus, napkins, signs and advertising.
In her ruling yesterday, Green said it was "particularly noteworthy" that Steven Yung, president of the chain that is opening Hunan Rose, had placed advertisements for Hunan at Pavilion that stated incorrectly that it was under the same management of House of Hunan.
Morris Kletzkin, the lawyer for Hunan Rose, said the restaurant would open as planned, without lions. But, he said, "My client believes that he and every other Chinese-American has a right to use these Chinese artifacts in their business."