La Bamba busts new moves: New name, new menu, new challenge
This is a story about how family-owned La Bamba Mexican Restaurant became MX Tapas Bar and Restaurante.
Like all good things, it started with a certified letter from a big city lawyer.
The missive, which featured a variety of $10 verbs, is known in the law business as a cease and desist letter.
At first, it alarmed Francisco Cervantes, proprietor for 17 years of La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, 546 Main St.
The Chicago lawyer who authored the letter told Cervantes he would either cease and desist from operating under the La Bamba name or answer a lawsuit.
Cervantes chose the name for his business nearly two decades ago from among several options, none of which had anything to do with a different eatery in Illinois or anywhere else.
“It was a popular song,” Cervantes said. “I liked the sound of it.”
Unfortunately, the Chicago lawyer represented an Illinois restaurant that in 2008 registered the La Bamba name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C.
Although federal registration of a business name as a trademark is not mandatory, it has several advantages. According to the patent office:
■ Registration gives notice to the public that ownership of the name is claimed.
■ The business that registers the name as a trademark is legally presumed to own the name nationwide.
■ The business gets exclusive rights to use the name in connection with the goods and services listed in the registration.
Cervantes never registered ownership of the name outside Colorado.
What could he do?
First, the restaurateur called his son, Frank, who operates a construction business in Mexico. Then he called an attorney.
It didn’t take long for the trio to decide on a course of action: “Limonada de limones,” Cervantes said.
DECISION TO RE-BRAND
It was time for a change, Cervantes said.
What started 17 years ago with loads of passion, exciting innovation, fresh ingredients and a long menu of authentic Mexican dishes had become too routine and comfortable.
By the end of 2013, the food at La Bamba was still delicious, the customers were still loyal, but the thrill was gone, he said.
Meanwhile, young Frank Cervantes arrived from Mexico supercharged with ideas and inspiration to help his father, Francisco, and mother, Betty, find a new way.
A graduate of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Frank Cervantes used his international business degree to help build a successful firm in Mexico. Now he would help his father and mother do the same in Grand Junction.
Cervantes already knew what Cobb Strategic Marketing’s Eric Mello recommends to any business making the decision to re-brand.
“With my clients, I want to make sure that whatever they re-brand to, it’s something easy to pronounce, easy to recognize, something that’s easy to remember,” Mello said.
The new name should describe the product, if possible, he said.
Check, check and check.
After weeks of debate — not all of it cordial — Cervantes, his father and mother devised a new menu, created a colorful new space, and came up with a new name that manages to say just about everything customers need to know about Grand Junction’s freshest new gathering place, MX Tapas Bar and Restaurante.
MX TAPAS BAR
Owners Francisco and Betty Cervantes, with long-distance help from a Spanish chef, will introduce for the first time in Grand Junction a tapas concept that mixes Mexican ingredients with traditional Spanish tapas.
Tapas are snacks, canapés and finger food that originated in Spain.
“Tapas are essentially a style of eating rather than a form of cooking. It means sociability, friends and family, people of a like mind talking and drinking in a relaxed atmosphere while nibbling away on bites of intense and unique flavor,” Francisco Cervantes said.
Diners will enjoy selective cured meats from Spain, wild Alaskan salmon, fresh tilapia, Colorado beef and organic fruits and vegetables.
“You will not, we promise you, find a more pleasurable and flavor-filled experience from a family-run business anywhere in town. Wherever you are from, these dishes will give you a tasty mouthful of Spain and Mexico,” Cervantes said.
In addition to tapas, lunch specials and combos, burritos and authentic traditional plates will be available at all times, he said.
“On the drinks side, MX will be offering only the best margaritas with fresh squeezed lime and 100 percent agave Mezcal,” Cervantes said.
Also new on the bar menu, fruit-infused martinis and Easy Street Wheat, an award-winning beer from Odell Brewing Company.
Decor imported from Spain together with glass art created by Cervantes himself will set MX apart from any place in town, he said.
Patrons will enjoy chill lounge music featuring artists like Hotel Costes and Stephane Pomplugnac together with sounds from Ibiza and tropical, modern music from south of the border, Frank Cervantes said.
A new color scheme and lighting makes MX Tapas a comfortable place to enjoy cocktails with friends over lunch, after work or during dinner, Cervantes said.
“We want it to be a place where people love to go to hang out and relax,” he said.