When a restaurant makes its customers sick, it expects a drop in business. But following the incident earlier this month at Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse in Stony Brook, where nearly 30 diners were struck down by a foodborne illness, the cold has been felt by restaurants that are are also called “Kumo”.
Lewis Lin, owner of Kumo Sushi in Plainview and Kumo Sushi Hibachi & Lounge in Bay Shore, said that starting last week, “customers started coming in, asking if we were connected to Kumo in Stony Brook , and to call and ask too.
That’s not the case, Linn said, but he estimates that business in Bay Shore is down about 40 percent and that Plainview has lost a third simply because of the misperception that those spots are connected to the Kumo at Stony Brook.
According to state records, Kumo in Stony Brook is owned by Cheung Wah Lam. Not only are the restaurants unrelated, but Lin has long worried about similar names. It opened at Manetto Hill Plaza in Plainview in 2006. By the time Lin opened a second location in Bay Shore in 2013 with partner Ming Feng Liu, Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse had come to Stony Brook and another Kumo Sushi had not. linked was open in Franklin Square. .
What worries Lin more than customers with questions are customers who assume they know the answer: the wrong answer.
Elyse and Alan Stern have been customers of Kumo Plainview for at least 10 years. When Elyse heard the news about Kumo at Stony Brook, she was “pretty distraught.” The Upper Brookville couple arrived for dinner late last week. “I expected it to be full on a Thursday night,” she said, “but there were no more than four tables occupied.” Elyse said she was relieved to learn from Lin that he had nothing to do with the Stony Brook restaurant.
Lin said he considered trademarking the names of his restaurants, but was unable to do so.
Lisa Dvoskin, an attorney with Lamb & Barnosky in Melville who works in restaurant and trademark law, said there are at least nine restaurants named Kumo in New York state. From 2010 to 2021, a Kumo restaurant in Florida obtained federal trademark protection for that name, she said, but it is generally difficult to obtain and defend such a trademark around names that are not not distinctive. “It’s not like Starbucks: it’s a name that the owners came up with themselves.” Additionally, she continued, “in this case, the restaurants also had slightly different names: Kumo Sushi and Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse.”
Beyond the four Kumos on Long Island, New York, there are two in Brooklyn and one each in Queens, Westchester and Rockland counties. The name means “cloud” in Japanese. Lin named his restaurants after the restaurant his sister-in-law opened in Hamden, Conn., in 2002. That Kumo closed, but there are at least three unrelated Kumos in Long Strait Island, Connecticut.