Residents file lawsuit against Turkey Leg Hut, call eatery a 'public health risk'

UPDATE: FULL VIDEO - Owners of Turkey Leg Hut respond to lawsuit filed by neighbors

It’s quickly become one of the go-to restaurants in Houston. Now, the Turkey Leg Hut is facing a lawsuit filed by nearby residents claiming the restaurant is a risk to their health.

Residents in this neighborhood have been at odds with the Turkey Leg Hut since it opened almost two years ago, because of parking issues, and the large crowds that go there. Now, they are taking their battle to court, claiming their outdoor cooking area is illegal, and the smoke is a health hazard.

Footage taken over a two-hour period from a home surveillance camera was provided to FOX 26. It shows smoke from the Turkey Leg Hut’s cookers blowing into residents homes. They claim keeping the windows shut doesn’t keep the smoke out, and it is causing the residents, including infants, to have respiratory issues.

Patricia Bird, a resident involved with the lawsuit, tells FOX 26, “The more obnoxious the odor became, and it got to a point where I started noticing myself an increased amount of shortness of breath, having to use my inhalers more than I would, more than I normally have been using them. Wheezing, which I did not have on a regular basis, but I do now." 

The lawsuit states that the air quality was tested, and showed high levels of air pollution. The residents won a temporary restraining order in which the restaurant can only operate their outdoor cooking area between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. It’s a small victory, as the residents continue to work on putting a stop to all outdoor cooking activity. 

Cris Feldman, the attorney representing the residents, said, “There have been repeated complaints to the City of Houston. Repeated outreach to the health department, and nothing. Why that is? I can’t tell you exactly, but what we do know is the city has failed the citizens, and this lawsuit was the last resort.”

Other business owners, like Jasmine Terry, owner of Le Chateau Bistro and Lounge, feel that sometimes the residents are hard to work with, but are optimistic about the future. 

“Third Ward was predominantly a black area, and there’s a lot of black businesses. I don’t think it’s a reason to go anywhere, we should just be able to work together," said Terry.

Residents claim they don’t want the business to shut down. Feldman tells FOX 26 they want “Just injunctive relief. There is nothing in there about trying to get money from these people. They just need to learn how to be good neighbors and follow the law, and that’s apparently very difficult for them.“

Turkey Leg Hut issued this statement:

“At this time it is a pending legal matter, and we are not able to comment. 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.“ Nakia Price, Owner/Managing Partner, Turkey Leg Hut

Lisa Edwardsen, a licensed Registered Sanitarian with the State of Texas visited the site, and observed potential contaminants like pooling water, mud, piles of ash, as well as an "environment conducive to pests", among other issues. She believes that "patrons are being subjected to an elevated risk of potential food borne illness". 

 A temporary injunction hearing will take place on Dec. 6, where the residents are hoping to put an end to all outdoor cooking the restaurant.