A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Harris County Court alleges popular Third Ward restaurant Turkey Leg Hut is "an unpermitted, illegal, and unregulated business" that poses as "an elevated public health risk to the surrounding community as well as its customers."
Turkey Leg Hut, owned by husband-and-wife duo Lyndell and Nakia Price, is known for its oversized smoked turkey legs filled with savory ingredients (such as rice and cheese), plus ultra-boozy drinks and convivial atmosphere. With a large Instagram following, visits from celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Drake (they most recently catered Kanye West's performance at Lakewood Church), plus recent expansion, the restaurant is not only among the most popular in the city, but is also considered a must-stop for people visiting the area.
Moreover, in October the restaurant won a Pinnacle Award from the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce for having "a positive impact" on the community.
But Patricia Bird, Kristin Bird, Jennifer Black, Dr. Carolyn Kenney, Luis Michieli, and Elizabeth Urquiola—plaintiffs in the lawsuit—claim in their petition that Turkey Leg Hut pollutes the neighborhood with "noxious thick wood smoke" from its ongoing turkey smoking with an alleged "absence of approved ventilation systems." The plaintiffs, one of whom lives with asthma and claims a greater health risk living near the restaurant, say the smoke issue has become so serious that they cannot walk around the neighborhood "without inhaling the particulate matter hanging in the air."
The lawsuit also alleges Turkey Leg Hut of violating the city's sound ordinance with "electronically amplified bass" in the evening and constant firewood stacking "at all times," of creating a situation where customers park cars in neighbors' driveways, and of being "openly hostile" when confronted with issues from neighbors.
“At this time this is a pending legal matter, and we are not able to comment," wrote Turkey Leg Hut co-owner Nakia Price in a statement provided to media. "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's Instagram has remained active, including reposting an Instagram user's allegation that the lawsuit is part of a plan to force gentrification on the Third Ward.
The Prices will also hold a press conference Friday morning to address the allegations. Meanwhile, the court ordered a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the restaurant from using its smokers from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily through Dec. 4. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 6.