However he’s finest recognized for one thing else: Gregory has promoted the bar as the house of the unique Taco Tuesday, in addition to the nation’s first trademarked use of a phrase that’s grown right into a weekly American cultural phenomenon. Since that first Taco Tuesday night time in 1979, Gregory estimates that the bar has served more than 2 million tacos in what has change into a Somers Level custom for generations of households and singles on a price range, and 20-somethings needing to absorb the booze and unhealthy choices.
It’s a customized that comes within the type of two hard-shell floor beef tacos with taco seasoning, lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese that Gregory’s serves with a spork in a purple basket and sells for $3.50. And it has all occurred below a trademark that Gregory, who amusingly doesn’t like tacos or Mexican meals and hasn’t eaten a taco in many years, has owned for greater than 40 years.
“A South Jersey taco is a Gregory’s taco,” Gregory advised The Washington Put up. “It’s a culinary delight, nevertheless it’s one in every of a form.”
With that delight comes doubt about what’s forward for the ritual that has made Gregory’s a Backyard State establishment. The way forward for Gregory’s Taco Tuesday trademark within the state of New Jersey now faces uncertainty amid Taco Bell’s petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace in Could looking for to cancel the trademark. Taco Bell, which serves more than 40 million customers in the US every week, has argued that the Taco Tuesday phrase has change into so generic that the trademark must be liberated to permit any of the a whole lot of eating places, bars and cantinas within the nation that already ignore the Taco Tuesday trademark to make use of it of their advertising with out concern of any potential authorized motion.
In July, Taco John’s, a Wyoming-based chain that operates nearly 400 eating places, gave up its right to the trademark in 49 states, which it had owned since 1989. In an announcement to The Put up, Taco Bell CEO Mark King mentioned that whereas the chain was thrilled Taco John’s had deserted its Taco Tuesday trademark, “we stay dedicated to liberating Taco Tuesday in all places, together with in New Jersey.”
“We stand by our perception that Taco Tuesday belongs to all who make, promote, eat and have fun tacos,” King mentioned. A spokesperson for Taco John’s didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Taco Bell’s authorized push to liberate the phrase, which has included the advertising assist of NBA nice and Taco Tuesday fanatic LeBron James, has left Gregory with the final trademark of its sort within the nation in what he described as a modern-day David vs. Goliath story.
Taco Bell has responded by saying it will provide prospects free Doritos Locos Tacos on every Tuesday via Sept. 5.
“Daily is taco day at Taco Bell, so I don’t know why they need to take Taco Tuesday from us,” mentioned Steve Altamuro, a household good friend and legal professional for Gregory within the authorized struggle in opposition to Taco Bell. “They’ve Taco Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you title it. I don’t know what they’re attempting to perform.”
The trademark battle additionally has Gregory considering what it might imply in the long run for a small enterprise open since 1946 that has proclaimed itself as the house of the nation’s unique Taco Tuesday.
“I simply need all people to know that we began Taco Tuesday,” he mentioned.
From ‘take-o’ to taco
When Gregory and his companion, Walt, have been set to take over the household enterprise in 1979, he needed to see what it was that folks have been ready in line for at a stand inside Philadelphia’s Gallery mall. Gregory, then 26 and dealing at a beer and liquor retailer on the mall, lastly acquired to the entrance of the road and uttered a sentence to the woman behind the counter that might change the trajectory of his life.
“I’ll have a take-o.”
“She says: ‘It’s taco. It’s Tex-Mex,’” he remembered concerning the day he ate his first taco. His pleasure, nonetheless, was short-lived. “I take a chew — and I couldn’t eat it. It was horrible, terrible,” he mentioned, noting he’s hated cumin ever since. “However the lengthy line continued day by day, so I knew they have been on to one thing.”
After Gregory unsuccessfully tried to make tacos a everlasting a part of the menu in January 1979, he persuaded his brother and household to have tacos obtainable as soon as per week as a promotion.
“I needed to do it on Tuesday as a result of Wednesday was ‘Drink and Drown’ at Tony Mart’s, which had 50-cent drinks, and the place was at all times packed,” Gregory mentioned, referring to the well-known dance membership. “I needed to chop their legs off and get the individuals into our place so they may have their large energy load on Tuesday fairly than the night time after once they’re not feeling as much as it.”
The proprietor acquired a buddy of his from Texas to indicate him easy methods to make the tacos. Gregory discovered a salsa recipe from contained in the pages of a Playboy journal from 1978. Gregory selected onerous shells, which have been popularized in the US by locations like Taco Bell and utilized in Tex-Mex and different eating places, over the extra traditional-in-Mexico smooth shells.
On Feb. 6, 1979, they bought 5 orders — then three for $1 — on that first Taco Tuesday. The second week, they bought eight.
“No one knew what they have been,” he mentioned.
So when Gregory made a run to Philadelphia to purchase 200 corn taco shells, the thought that might final him via the month. Then, on the third week, they bought 70 orders, or 210 tacos, and Gregory needed to make the final tacos out of sentimental tortillas.
“I assumed, ‘Holy smokes, there’s a line out the door of 30 individuals attempting to return in,’” mentioned Paul Gregory, one in every of Gregory’s sons and cooks who now runs the bar alongside along with his brother, Joe. “It match the bar completely.”
Everybody in Somers Level now knew about Taco Tuesday.
‘It’s a must to get a trademark’
The historical past of who got here up with Taco Tuesday has lengthy been in dispute.
Gustavo Arellano, a Los Angeles Instances columnist and writer of the 2012 ebook, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” reported in Thrillist that an El Paso enterprise was selling tacos bought on Tuesdays as early as 1933. Newspaper clippings from throughout the US — Arizona, Minnesota, Utah, Wisconsin — present companies selling tacos on Tuesday. The earliest documented use of the phrase Taco Tuesday got here from a 1973 newspaper ad in Fast Metropolis, S.D., selling three tacos for $1 on the Snow White Drive-In.
Gregory Gregory mentioned he had by no means heard of Taco Tuesday earlier than the bar launched the promotion in 1979.
“It rolled off the tongue, identical to Gregory Gregory,” he mentioned, referring to how his father gave him the identical first and final title.
By 1981, Jack Spellman noticed the lengthy strains and believed Gregory wanted to stake a authorized declare on Taco Tuesday. Spellman, a professor who taught Gregory public talking at what was then known as Atlantic Group School, advisable that his former pupil file for a trademark till Spellman himself introduced the paperwork for him to signal.
“He mentioned: ‘It’s a must to get a trademark. This can be a phenomenon, that is loopy,’” Gregory mentioned. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace acknowledged the Taco Tuesday trademark for Gregory Lodge Inc., the bar’s mother or father firm, on Oct. 19, 1982.
Because the bar was gaining extra recognition, Gregory admits he has jokingly known as different eating places within the state he’s heard operating their very own Taco Tuesday promotions to remind them that he’s acquired the trademark. However he nearly misplaced it totally in 1989, when he lapsed on renewing the trademark, and Taco John’s was awarded it from the patent workplace. The bar and the chain ultimately got here to settlement that gave Taco John’s possession of the trademark within the 49 different states, whereas Gregory’s had a easy request.
“We simply needed New Jersey,” the proprietor mentioned.
As teams of individuals trickle in from the seashore for a lunch break in early August, they’re greeted with an orange bar menu in comedian sans font that has a typo for its most well-known dish — “TWO BEFF TACOS” — on the “HOME OF THE ORIGINAL TACO TUESDAY® SINCE 1979.” The lunch line right here on this present day is busier than on the Taco Bell location a couple of mile away.
Paul Gregory recalled how Taco Tuesday had gotten so large at Gregory’s by round 2003 that they ran a taco-eating contest that ultimately needed to finish as a result of the onerous corn shells have been choking hazards that have been additionally inflicting some individuals to bleed, all in hope of successful a surfboard or a motorbike.
“You needed to drink a beer afterward and it acquired a bit ugly,” he mentioned.
Gregory Gregory has had enjoyable up to now with those that’ve challenged the trademark. When James made an unsuccessful try to say the trademark in 2019, the bar’s marquee poked enjoyable on the NBA celebrity: “C’mon, LeBron.” After James’s son, Bronny, just lately suffered cardiac arrest, Gregory made the signal learn, “Our prayers are with LeBron’s son.” “I’m within the enjoyable enterprise, I’m not within the nasty enterprise,” he mentioned.
However the good vibes at Gregory’s have been upended when Taco Bell got here after it and Taco John’s in Could. Gregory mentioned he was shocked that the authorized problem was unfolding — and much more stunned when Taco John’s folded as shortly because it did and gave up the Taco Tuesday trademark within the 49 different states.
Gregory acknowledges he doesn’t know the way lengthy his enterprise can sustain a authorized struggle with a conglomerate like Taco Bell, particularly if the authorized bills creep into the vary of six figures. Altamuro, his legal professional who commonly practices extra in property and private damage instances, mentioned they’ve been contacted by different attorneys prepared to work with them professional bono or at a diminished charge, however nobody has signed on but to assist in the struggle.
“Greg has had some preliminary conversations with Taco Bell, so we’ll see in the event that they need to go to the mattresses or discover a mutual decision,” mentioned Altamuro, referencing a well-known scene from “The Godfather.”
Gregory, sporting a black Gregory’s Taco Tuesday polo with an embroidered sombrero and Dos Equis brand, fears that the lack of the New Jersey trademark can be a crushing blow to a enterprise that’s had its paydays for workers on Wednesdays due to the decades-long success of the promotion. He hopes he can come to an settlement with Taco Bell the place the chain one way or the other acknowledges Gregory’s and its declare to the trademark that it is likely to be pressured to surrender.
However he can’t take into consideration that now, as a result of he must get again to work. It’s Taco Tuesday, and tacos are nonetheless on the menu.
“It’s Gregory’s Mexican meals — olé,” he mentioned in his South Jersey accent. “When individuals go to different locations, they’ll say, ‘We had tacos in California they usually don’t even seem like yours.’ And I’d simply say, ‘Nicely, ours are ours.’”