Battle of the cafe con leche continues in Key West

Sandy’s Cafe originated at 1026 White St. in 1984.
Sandy’s Cafe originated at 1026 White St. in 1984. Keynoter

Key West is now home to two separate Sandy’s restaurants, both on the same street.

As a trademark infringement lawsuit continues to brew over the Sandy’s name — synonymous with steaming cafe con leches and Cuban mixes — the “original” Sandy’s reopened under different management at the M&M Laundry building at 1026 White St, while down the block the lawsuit filer moved into new digs under the Sandy’s shingle.

Fernando Caceres, who began running the Sandy’s Cafe in 1994, sued first in federal court in January saying he clearly owns the Sandy’s trademark because of a handshake deal he made with Inocente “Sandy” Santiago Sr. years ago.

Inocente “Sandy” Santiago Jr. filed a counterclaim Feb. 14, arguing his parents always owned the Sandy’s name since they created it in 1984 and have paid all the taxes since.

Between 1984 and 1994, at least four different parties have managed Sandy’s, Santiago Jr. says, and Caceres was also only an operator, never being given the rights to what is essentially the family name.

A hearing at U.S. District Court is set for 9 a.m. March 5.

Santiago Jr.’s counterclaim takes a few shots at Caceres, including a claim that the Santiagos would have to confront him over the quality of the Cuban food from time to time.

“Because Caceres had no experience running or operating a restaurant (or any business for that matter), Sandy Sr. and Sandy Jr. trained, mentored, and taught Caceres how to: manage, cook; order supplies; maintain equipment; and otherwise operate Sandy’s Café,” Santiago’s counterclaim reads. “Caceres paid all rent payments to M&M Laundry.”

Also, Santiago Jr. says his family paid $7,300 for the installation of a hood exhaust system in 2012 for Sandy’s Cafe, and in 2014, repaired the hood for $6,750.

“M&M Laundry would not have paid for these business expenditures if it did not own the Sandy’s Café business,” the claim reads.

Sandy Sr. died in 2016.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen