GTA-themed 'Cluckin' Bell' pop-up restaurant catches cease and desist from Take Two, so they're renaming it 'Don't Cluckin' Tell'

Cluckin' Bell clerk from GTA San Andreas
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

One of the culinary highlights of San Diego Comic Con 2022 was Cluckin' Bell, a popup fast-food joint based on the fictional Grand Theft Auto eatery of the same name. Alas, the chicken is off the menu for 2023, as Take-Two Interactive has issued a cease-and-desist order that's shut the whole thing down.

Smokin' J's had actually planned to expand its game-inspired grub for the 2023 event by doing a Burger Shot popup as well. Both in-game restaurants are prominent features of the Grand Theft Auto landscape: They debuted in GTA: San Andreas, according to the unofficial GTA Wiki, and have appeared in every GTA game since then.

(Image credit: SDCC Unofficial Blog (Twitter))

"We’re looking forward to welcoming all GTA-lovers, Comic Con visitors, and local San Diegoians at these events to enjoy delicious food, drinks, and a truly unique videogame-inspired experience," Smokin' J's co-owner Josh George told There San Diego.

But just days before Comic Con was set to begin, Smokin' J's announced that the plan had been scrubbed. "Last night, we received a cease and desist letter from the law firm representing Take-Two Interactive," Smokin' J's BBQ told Rockstar Intel earlier this week. "In response, we have been forced to scrap the Burger Shot event that was planned for this weekend."

Michael Too, who was working with Smokin' J's on the GTA-based popups, confirmed the cancellation in an Instagram video.

Smokin' J's said it's still going to do a Cluckin' Bell-style installation over the weekend, "however it is now going to be a spoof installation branded as Dont Cluckin' Tell"—so a spoof of a spoof, basically. (A move reminiscent of Nathan Fielder's "Dumb Starbucks.") The Burger Shot restaurant will not be reworked, but the good news for burger fans is that, with hundreds of pounds of ground beef already purchased for the popup, Smokin' J's is doing half-price burgers and onion rings through the weekend.

It's a shame that Take-Two dropped the hammer on what looks to be a fun and harmless GTA-inspired project, but not really surprising: The publisher is notoriously protective of its properties, and is not shy about trotting out the lawyers—and even pushy PIs—when people start playing around with them in unapproved ways.

I've reached out to Take-Two for comment and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.