I’ve never met Nusret Gökçe in real life, so there’s a chance he’s a very nice man. However, I am fine with mocking his alter ego—the ultra-ripped meme/restaurateur known as Salt Bae—every chance I get, especially when he’s doing things like ripping people off, which he has allegedly done to Brooklyn-based artist William Hicks.
Eater reports that Hicks has filed a $5 million lawsuit against Mr. Bae in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming the smarmy steak salesman printed Hicks’ artwork on menus, takeout bags, and signs at overseas outposts of Bae’s restaurant (and home of the fabled $1,000 gold-plated tomahawk ribeye), Nusr-Et Steakhouse. According to the lawsuit, Hicks and another artist were commissioned in September 2017 to design a mural of “The Bae” in his iconic bicep-bulging, salt-sprinkling pose to be displayed at the steakhouse’s Miami outpost; additional murals were ordered for Nusr-Et restaurants in New York, Dubai, and Istanbul.
After the original paid commissions, Hicks alleges Bae and his associates had unauthorized copies of the murals made for restaurants in Turkey, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates without compensating Hicks for further use of his copyrighted design. The amount Hicks was paid for the original commission has not been disclosed, and both he and his lawyers have opted not to speak to reporters.
This lawsuit is but the buzzing of flies to Bae & Friends, who seem unable to open a restaurant without being dragged to court. They were sued for wage theft in Miami, where they emerged victorious, and also in New York, a case that was quietly settled last July. In Dallas they’re facing two lawsuits from a contractor claiming he was never paid for his services. Last October the Nusr-Et team was charged with multiple safety violations by the city of Boston, but it doesn’t appear they’ve been sued there... yet. When Salt Bae comes to town, anything can happen!