Lawsuit alleges Turkey Leg Hut releases "noxious pollutants"

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Residents near a beloved Houston restaurant are suing the owners, claiming the smoke coming from the property is toxic.

The Turkey Leg Hut opened in 2015 and moved to the new location on Almeda Road last year.

Plaintiffs, such as Patricia Bird, reported smoke billowing into their homes almost immediately.

"As their business grew, the more obnoxious the odor became," Bird said. "I have experienced increased shortness of breath, increased wheezing, headaches and a depletion of energy."

Cris Feldman, the plaintiffs' attorney, claims the business is operating the outdoor cooker illegally, saying it violates city ordinances. He also points out the residents were there first and claims they've tried to contact the business directly to come up with a resolution.

"All five of these plaintiffs lived in the area prior to this business beginning its operation," Feldman said.

A court ordered the business to stop using the smoker between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., but the plaintiffs say that's not enough.

"We allege the Turkey Leg Hut's illegal operations create a range of activity that is harmful to people and property. With a noxious stream of pollutants that permeate the neighborhood, the restaurant is a public health risk in more ways than one," Feldman said in a written statement. "Unlike a neighbor who occasionally holds a backyard barbecue - or even comparable restaurants anywhere else in Houston - the Turkey Leg Hut is a veritable unregulated and unenclosed illegal outdoor meat smoking factory."

Employees at the restaurant said they were aware of the complaints, but believe the lawsuit is an exaggerated response to a neighborhood complaint.

The restaurant owners later issued a written statement, saying they're defending themselves from the accusations.

"We are aware of the allegations against the Turkey Leg Hut and have been cooperative with the city of Houston and the associated departments. We will continue to rigorously defend all allegations made against us, as we always work hard to have a safe and healthy environment for our community and patrons," Turkey Leg Hut, owner Nakia Price said in a statement.

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The lawsuit is the latest episode in a series of disagreements between the popular restaurant and residents in a neighborhood, which has seen expanding revitalization in recent years.

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