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Family owners of beloved Vegas restaurant involved in wild lawsuit

Updated June 21, 2024 - 10:19 am

The company that owns the original Lotus of Siam restaurant on East Sahara Avenue is suing a company founded by a family member, alleging trademark infringement involving its secret recipes and its operations at a new restaurant with the same name.

The company, TChutima Inc., was started by chef Saipin Chutima and her husband, Suchay Chutima. The suit against Bua Group — founded by their daughter, Penny Chutima, and a family friend — was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. TChutima Inc. owns the Lotus of Siam federal trademark.

Penny Chutima and Lou Abin, a former executive with the Tao Group, formed Bua Group in 2021 to operate a Lotus of Siam restaurant in Red Rock Resort, according to the complaint.

Examples of alleged unapproved uses of the Lotus of Siam trademark at Lotus Red Rock include champagne party brunches, with scantily clad dancers, that were marketed using the trademark; the serving of a unilaterally expanded cocktail menu under the trademark; the creation of a Bua Group online presence using the trademark; the serving of European-influenced dishes (including an Ibérico pork secreto special) under the trademark; and materially altering the preparation of dishes and the contents of the menu.

The complaint also alleges that Bua Group has ceased purchasing Lotus of Siam proprietary sauces from TChutima, as required by the trademark agreement, and “has attempted to reverse-engineer TChutima’s trade secret recipes in an effort to steal Chef Chutima’s family recipes.”

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Lotus of Siam ranks among the most celebrated names in Vegas food history. Gourmet rated the original Lotus the finest Thai restaurant in North America, and in 2011, Saipin Chutima was the co-winner of the Best Chef: Southwest category in the James Beard Awards, the most prestigious American culinary recognition. Signature dishes include khao soi and the butterflied garlic shrimp.

In the trademark agreement dated May 5, 2021, according to the complaint, TChutima granted Bua Group permission to develop Lotus Red Rock’s initial menu, periodically update the menu, create Lotus Red Rock’s initial kitchen layout, develop and implement Lotus Red Rock’s initial staff training policies and procedures, and periodically update those policies and procedures.

Under the influence of co-founder Abin, “Bua Group began to drift away from both the Lotus of Siam brand and its duties under the Trademark Agreement. This led Bua Group to run roughshod over the Lotus of Siam brand, using TChutima’s Lotus of Siam Trademark in a myriad of ways TChutima never approved.”

“Whatever Bua Group is serving to its customers, it is NOT Lotus of Siam Food,” the complaint states.

As a result, the complaint alleges that the actions of Bua Group have damaged the Lotus of Siam reputation and goodwill, have resulted in decreased food quality and have confused consumers about the origin of dishes served under the Lotus of Siam trademark.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has requested comment on the lawsuit from attorneys for the plaintiff and from a representative for Bua Group.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram.

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