Leeds' Vanguard bar changes its identity to Iroko after legal row over its name

A Leeds cafe bar has re-launched itself this week after a legal row over its name.

Friday, 14th June 2019, 11:08 am
Alexander Neil outside the newly named Iroko bar on Duncan Street in Leeds.

The Vanguard opened at the beginning of the year but then discovered a bar in Birmingham had trademarked the name just days earlier.

After weeks of legal correspondence, the Leeds Vanguard, on Duncan Street, claims it was told to pay £6,000 per year to continue using the name - or change it, so last month it launched a competition seeking new name suggestions with promises of free coffee for a lifetime for the person with the best suggestion.

This week the bar was re-branded Iroko, which refers to a large hardwood tree, believed to have supernatural properties from the west coast of tropical Africa.

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The winner of the competition, local joiner Lee Blanchard, suggested the name, after having identified that the majority of the wood panelling in the café-bar is made from Iroko. Lee will receive a £100 bar tab to spend on brunch with friends in Iroko, alongside one free coffee a day for life.

The family owners of the day-to-night café bar, who also own Rolands and The Domino Club in Leeds, have vowed to use other runner-up suggestions as names for signature cocktails, including Duvet Hanger, suggested by Jake F Burger and Trademark suggested Harry Roberts.

Iroko is well-known in the city for its day-to-night moving back-bar which slides across turning from a daytime coffee shop to reveal a full-stocked bar at night. It has the only La Marzocco Modbar espresso machine outside London which sits under the counter (Harrods has one too) and it serves Leeds’ North Star coffee.

Alexander Neil, co-director at Iroko said: “We’re really pleased with our new name, Iroko. At first it was difficult to imagine our café-bar being named anything other than The Vanguard, but we feel Lee’s suggestion really works and we also love the supernatural themes behind the name.

“What began as a huge stress for the team, having to change our name and our branding, has actually led to a positive experience with local Leeds people, who have been really proactive in helping us to find a new name. Although we’re sad to see The Vanguard go, we know there’s lots of exciting changes to be seen, as our venue takes on its new identity as Iroko.”