Updated 5:32 p.m.
In this afternoon’s hearing in D.C. Superior Court, Judge John McAdams Mott delayed a final ruling on whether to grant injunctive relief to Steptoe & Johnson in its dispute with Rogue States, opting instead to urge the parties to come to an agreement. Mott warned that he was inclined to offer injunctive relief to Steptoe based on the allegations of health issues caused by smoke and other fumes coming from the restaurant.
Rogue States has been operating under an agreement with its building owner that required the restaurant to install a “scrubber” exhaust system and to refrain from using wood chips in its cooking.
Steptoe, Rogue States, and their respective building owners, all of whom are parties in the case, have until Aug. 10 to come to an agreement. If they are unable to do so, the judge set a date of Aug. 24 for the next hearing.
Julio Menache contributed to this report.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP is fighting with a high-end hamburger restaurant in a building near its Northwest Washington offices over whether fumes from the restaurant are causing health problems for the firm’s employees.
Steptoe and the owner of its office building have asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to issue an injunction barring Rogue States, a Burger Grilling Company, from continuing to emit smoke and odors. Judge John McAdam Mott is expected to make a ruling on that request this afternoon. The owner of the building where Rogue States is located was also sued.
In the firm’s complaint, which was filed on March 10 by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partner Deborah Baum, Steptoe contends that the exhaust system at Rogue States’ 1300 Connecticut Ave. N.W. location, which is near the firm’s 1330 Connecticut Ave. N.W. office, dumps smoke and fumes from the restaurant into the firm’s air-intake system. As a result, the complaint says, “Steptoe employees have reported health-related effects in connection with the smoke and food odors, including but not limited to headaches, nausea, dizziness, watery and itchy eyes, drowsiness and distraction.”
Steptoe’s complaint notes that Rogue States, which opened on Connecticut Avenue in February, was slapped with a violation notice by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs because its exhaust system was not adequately discharging smoke and food odors.
Rogue States, which is being represented by Gary Adler of Roetzel & Andress, says in its pleadings that it “took immediate action” to stem the flow of irritating odors. Adler writes in the March 22 opposition to the request for a temporary restraining order that Rogue States gave additional training to its kitchen staff on how to use exhaust equipment more efficiently. Adler also writes that the restaurant spent $63,803 to install a new exhaust system that resulted in the dismissal of the violation notice from the D.C. agency.
Adler argues that if Steptoe’s request for injunctive relief is granted, “Rogue States will suffer extreme and irreparable harm.” He writes, “[Rogue States] will have to terminate operations, leaving close to 40 employees without a job. It will lose its revenue stream at its embryonic stage which would have a domino effect on its ability to pay creditors. Such an action, in Rogue States’ sincere belief, threatens the viability of the company.”
In a June 10 filing, Paul Kiernan, a Holland & Knight partner representing the company that owns the Rogue States building, argues that the fumes have been dramatically reduced since the new exhaust system was installed. He writes, “Whatever the situation might have been in early March when this suit and this request for injunctive relief were first filed, it is clear that matters are vastly changed today.”
According to the court’s docket, the two sides have tried to mediate the matter, but no agreement was reached.