Turkey Leg Hut lawyer calls smoke lawsuit 'absurd'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Owners of the Turkey Leg Hut said their attorney was blindsided by a lawsuit claiming the business creates "noxious pollutants" with their smokers at the Third Ward restaurant.

A group of neighbors allege the smoke is threatening their quality of life.

RELATED: Lawsuit alleges Turkey Leg Hut releases "noxious pollutants"

Owner Nakia Price said the restaurant is in the process of building an enclosed smoke pit area, but neighbors involved in the pending lawsuit have opposed those plans.

"At the Museum Super Parks Neighborhood meeting held just last week, a handful of residents showed up to oppose the building enclosure that would solve the very problems that they filed the lawsuit on this past week," Price said. "We have been and are ready and willing to do whatever we have to do to solve this problem."

Price's attorney, Jeremy Pinckney, called the lawsuit absurd. Cris Feldman, the plaintiffs' attorney, claimed recently that the business is operating the outdoor cooker illegally, saying it violates city ordinances.

Pinckney disputed that at a press conference in front of the restaurant on Friday.

"How is complying with the law and every single agency necessary to operate a restaurant business in the city of Houston make one illegal unpermitted and unregulated?" Pinckney said, "These allegations are emphatically false and we will defend them vigorously."

Plaintiffs, such as Patricia Bird, reported smoke billowing into residents' homes as soon as the location on Almeda Road opened in 2017.

"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."

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.

After Friday's response, the plaintiff's attorney, Cris Feldman responded.

"The blatantly illegal and unpermitted outdoor food preparation by the Turkey Leg Hut is a public health hazard," Feldman said. "Giving away free food, whether with good intentions or as a stunt, does not allow the Turkey Leg Hut to operate illegally and put at risk the public, including nearby neighbors and the homeless."

As the back-and-forth between both sides continued, the Houston Health Dept. issued a statement about the restaurant's inspection history and permits.

"The Houston Health Department takes public health complaints seriously. Turkey Leg Hut has a Food Dealer's Permit and a Fats, Oils and Grease Permit for its food service establishment located at 4830 Almeda Road. The Houston Health Department inspects food service establishments throughout the city and the Turkey Leg Hut has been inspected more than two dozen times since 2017. Turkey Leg Hut received food safety citations in July 2018 and August 2019. In both instances, the violations were not imminent health threats and it was not necessary to order the establishment to stop operating."

Follow Steve Campion on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.