The new owners of Ruggles Green, investment firm Hargett Hunter Capital Partners, appear to have a budding PR nightmare on their hands, thanks to the eco-eateries' founder and former co-owner Bruce Molzan. Last night, a representative for the restaurant Ruggles Green reached out to the Houston Press to note that it is no longer affiliated in any way with Molzan, who is facing allegations from state game wardens of running an illegal seafood racket to the tune of $400,000 in profit. In a statement, Ruggles Green states:
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Today Texas Parks & Wildlife announced findings from an investigation of an illegal seafood network allegedly involving former Ruggles Green co-owner, Bruce Molzan. As of October 1, 2016, Ruggles Green is under new ownership and since that time Mr. Molzan has not been an owner, or involved in the management or operations of the company. Under its new ownership, Ruggles Green has not served any illegal seafood, has not received any citations in connection with this investigation and ensures lawful and sustainable practices. We stand behind our processes to provide guests with the highest quality of food.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department accuses Molzan of "operating an illegal seafood network," perhaps the biggest one in Texas history, including during his time at Ruggles Green. Molzan allegedly bought and sold an estimated 28,000 pounds of illegally caught finfish starting around 2013 or maybe even earlier, and served the fish at Ruggles Black and Ruggles Green eateries. There may also be a third restaurant involved in the network, with a press release noting that "another restaurant illegally sold shrimp to Molzan for use in his restaurants" as well.
Ruggles Green currently has five locations in Houston. The real zinger here is that these eateries pride themselves on using all organic ingredients to create dishes that are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian and that adhere to other dietary restrictions. Also, the original West Alabama location, which opened in 2008, "became the first Certified Green Restaurant in Houston, Texas," according to the official website's Our Story page, "and because of this, it received a lot of attention from the local media."
Just probably not as much attention as it's receiving right now.