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Son Denied Right to Name of Mom's Famous Saloon

February 17, 1988|From Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The owners of the building that housed Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, a legendary honky-tonk frequented in its heyday by country music celebrities, also own the right to the tavern's name, a judge has ruled.

Chancellor Robert S. Brandt ruled Friday that Howard Dodson, son of the late club owner Hattie L. (Tootsie) Bess, lost his right to use the name when he closed the tavern in 1985 and did not renew the trade name registration his mother had filed 10 years earlier.

Dodson filed suit in 1986 charging that the building's owners, Mollye Ashe and her brother, Abe Stein, were illegally using the name of the tavern that his mother had operated there for 25 years.

"What I want is my mother's name back," Dodson said when he filed the suit in Chancery Court.

But Brandt said Ashe and her brother did not invade Dodson's rights by registering the name "World Famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge" with the secretary of state's office in July, 1985, four months after Dodson closed the club.

Ashe and Stein have leased the building to others, who have continued to operate the tavern since August, 1985.

Tootsie's was across the alley from the backstage door of the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Parts of the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter" were filmed there, depicting the life of country music star Loretta Lynn.

"Mrs. Bess was famous for her hospitality and generosity, and her tavern became a well-known refuge for aspiring entertainers, musicians and songwriters, many of whom went on to achieve fame and fortune," Brandt wrote.

But when the Opry moved to the Opryland theme park complex in the suburbs, country stars dropped in less often and business dropped off.

Bess died in 1978.

Her son's decision to close the bar "received considerable coverage in both the local and national news media. From all indications, Tootsie's was closed for good," Brandt wrote.

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