Black & Orange, a Burger Grilling Company—formerly called Rogue States—has re-opened at its Connecticut Ave. location near Dupont Circle after resolving problems with its kitchen ventilation system.
Shortly after the restaurant opened in February 2010, Steptoe employees began to complain about smoke and fumes from the restaurant entering the firm’s air intake system. Black & Orange owner Raynold Mendizabal said he tried to reason with firm after learning of the problem but instead was slapped with a complaint.
The March 2010 complaint said “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.”
Judge John McAdams Mott found Steptoe's complaints credible and last October ordered the restaurant to shutter its doors until the ventilation problem could be fixed. The restaurant re-opened in June after installing a $90,000 ventilation system that runs to the top of the 10-story building.
"Our sole concern has been the health and welfare of our employees. As long as that issue is addressed, we're pleased to have them back in the neighborhood," a firm spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson declined to say whether the new ventilation system had solved the odorous problem.
“We are keeping an eye daily on it and working with the building engineers and so far it’s working perfectly,” Mendizabal said.
Looking back, the owner said he wished he could have avoided the whole suit that cost both parties about a million dollars.
“The end result was we went to war and nobody won,” Mendizabal said.
Mendizabal said he changed the name of his restaurant after he received calls from Rogue Brewery complaining that he was infringing on the name rights. He said all else remains the same, including the restaurant's specialty burgers and late-night hours.
“My position is if you’re good, the name doesn’t even matter.”
National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.