Owners of Turkey Leg Hut respond to lawsuit over smokey environment

HOUSTON – The owners of Turkey Leg Hut responded to allegations following a lawsuit from neighbors that claims the restaurant is operating illegally and it’s a public nuisance due to smoke.

On Friday, things got heated at an 11 a.m. press conference when attorneys for the restaurant called previous press reports “fake news,” while disputing claims that they are operating illegally.

“We have heard and listened to the handful of complaints about the smoke from neighboring residents and have been actively pursuing a resolution in response to those complaints,” said Nakia Price, owner of Turkey Leg Hut. “We have successfully operated our business in compliance and cooperation with the city of Houston ordinances.”

The Houston Health Department confirms the restaurant is in full compliance in a statement, reading in part, “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.”

Turkey Leg Hut’s attorney, Jeremy Pikney, showed architectural plans to build an enclosed smoker. On Wednesday, six neighbors slapped the Turkey Leg Hut with a lawsuit, forcing the restaurant to stop using outside smokers from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. for 14 days. Price said the restaurant received a permit to build a fully enclosed smoke pit area on Sept. 25. While construction for closure is still pending for additional city approval, Price said neighbors showed up to a public meeting to greenlight construction of the enclosure.

“A handful of neighborhood residents showed up to oppose us building the enclosure that would solve the very problem that they filed the lawsuit on this last week,” Price said.

Cris Feldman, the attorney representing the neighbors called an enclosed outdoor smoker “a step in the right direction,” but added it’s not enough.

“It’s not like building an enclosure is a great gift to the community,” said Feldman. “Right now, there’s nothing so that’s the most basic problem right there.”

Neighbors told KPRC 2 that they have repeatedly asked to meet with Price and asked for any plans the restaurant might have to reduce smoke. Neighbors said both requests have been repeatedly denied, leaving them no option but to file the temporary injunction limiting the hours the Turkey Leg Hut can smoke meat outdoors.

“All my clients have infant children who go to sleep at night and have to inhale particulates from wood smoke,” Feldman said.

The temporary order will expire on Dec. 4., however, neighbors are seeking more long-terms restrictions on outdoor food preparations and smoking for the Turkey Leg Hut.