A Judge Decides to Let a Fired Up Turkey Leg Hut Smoke On For Now

Turkey Leg Hut lives to smoke another day
Turkey Leg Hut lives to smoke another day Evidence photo in lawsuit
Turkey Leg Hut restaurant got its sentence reduced Tuesday when a judge decided to let it smoke on through the Thanksgiving holiday at its usual night time hours instead of the reduced schedule originally imposed on it by a temporary restraining order signed on November 20.

Civil Court Judge Beau Miller ruled, however, that as of Monday December 2 through Wednesday, December 4, that the smokers go offline after 8 p.m. and until 6 a.m. in the morning. Originally the restricted hours were to be in effect for two weeks. The next court appearance is scheduled for December 9 in the 152nd District Court when an injunction hearing will take place.

The suit originally filed by Feldman & Feldman on behalf of six neighbors of the popular Third Ward facility on Almeda, argued that the restaurant was a public health risk, sending smoke up into the air and creating a noise nuisance. Feldman has said that the suit was undertaken after appeals to remedy the restaurant's operations went nowhere.

"It is a basic issue of public health and safety. A key issue here is why has the city allowed this to continue," Feldman said after the ruling. "It raises some disturbing questions."

In turn, Turkey Leg Hut owners Nakia and Lyndell Price criticized the timing of the suit — right before Thanksgiving — and said that they have been working to remedy any concerns the neighbors have. And their attorney John Zavitsanos issued this statement post-ruling:

“Today’s ruling was a successful step in the right direction for the Turkey Leg Hut, whose good name and business have been unjustly damaged this week by the plaintiffs and their counsel. The Prices aren’t big corporate villains, recklessly endangering the environment. They’re a couple who invested their life’s savings into building a successful restaurant to serve smoked turkey legs in a neighborhood they love, and we will continue to vigorously defend all allegations against them in this lawsuit.”

According to a press release from Turkey Leg Hut, the restaurant "is in full compliance with all ordinances, permits and health codes for operation in the city of Houston."

Adding to the drama of the situation are allegations of conspiracy made by Turkey Leg Hut. As part of its response to the lawsuit, Turkey Leg Hut included redacted emails from opponents of the restaurant showing strategies to document the nuisance aspects of the restaurant:

"If you are out and you see a loud car or motorcycle, take video. People peeing on your fence, video. Drunk folks staggering back, video. Smoke billowing through the neighborhood, video.Loud music, video. I know most of us might have thought about avoiding our homes next Sunday for the street party, but he said take video of that especially. All nuisance in whatever form, we need to video from now on."
As well as acknowledging that they will be working somewhat under the radar:

"The ultimate goal of this litigation is obviously for the TLH to be somewhere else and not on our corner, but that cannot be the stated goal."
In Tuesday's action, the judge also increased the bond of the order from $500 to $24,000. According to Turkey Leg Hut, they have lost money with restricted hours which meant they couldn't make and then sell as many turkey legs as usual.

To read the redacted emails, check here:

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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