Optimistic about lawsuit's end, Tao Restaurant owners plan to expand in Brunswick
BRUNSWICK — The owners of Tao Restaurant have ambitious plans, including the hope that a lawsuit they face may soon be settled.
The Asian restaurant at 22 Pleasant St. is the subject of a trademark lawsuit filed last October by a national licensing company, although the restaurant owners say a settlement appears likely.
"Depositions have been postponed because we are in fairly intense settlement discussions right now," co-owner John Stadler said. "... We're quite confident in our position, so we're not that concerned either way about any resolution in the suit, but I think it's quite likely we will have a settlement and should be able to announce that shortly."
According to court documents, a Federal District Court judge in Portland granted a motion to stay the lawsuit on April 9. The two sides have until May 10 to reach a settlement; if they fail, the lawsuit will continue.
In the suit, TAO Licensing claims the Brunswick restaurant infringed on its trademark of the word "Tao." The Delware-based company owns TAO New York, an Asian restaurant, and TAO Las Vegas, a nightclub and Asian bistro.
In the meantime, Tao's owners have big plans.
They hope to begin construction in the fall on an addition that will double Tao's capacity to 100 seats and add an aquaponics greenhouse.
Stadler said the greenhouse, which will combine the processes of aquaculture and hydroponics to harvest fish and produce, will allow workers to work more hours when business is slow. When there aren't enough customers to serve, he said, they can spend their time tending the aquaponics facility.
"What we'd like to do is basically find a way to employ these people with good full-time jobs, health insurance, salaries ... and their down time is basically greenhouse time," Stadler said. "I think if you combine those with all the other pieces, we're going to be pushing the level of profitability to a level that will sustain itself."
Stadler said they're in the process of working on the design stages with BriBurn, a Green architecture firm based in Portland, and reviewing planning requirements with the town's Planning Board.
The town requires that businesses provide parking in accordance with their size. Stadler said he's confident he and co-owners Cecile and Cara Stadler will eventually reach an accord with the Planning Board.
Cara Stadler, the restaurant chef, said the aquaponics facility will provide new ingredients and inspiration for her.
"Having the ability to grow it ourselves will change everything," Stadler said.