It has cost him more than $300,000 — and countless cash in attorney fees and court costs — but Raynold Mendizabal will soon be back in the burger business on Dupont Circle. Rogue States, which a D.C. Superior Court judge closed last October because of its rogue ventilation system, will reopen June 27.
It will just go by another name: Black & Orange.
The name change became necessary, Mendizabal says, because it was too similar to another company’s. The owner had hoped for a, well, more rogueish name. But “everything related to ‘outlaw burger’ was taken,” he says. “The name doesn’t matter at all. If you’re good, you’re good.”
The name will be the only thing that changes, the chef-owner swears. “It’s going to be the same. The same burgers, same people, same hours.” Which means late-night bar crawlers can get their ground-beef fix till 5 a.m. at Black & Orange.
It’s been a long slog for Mendizabal to reopen Rogue/Black & Orange. The owner spent more than $300,000 to build a vent from his ground-floor burger joint to the top of the 10-story building at 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW, far more than the $84,000 estimated at the trial last fall. Back then, Steptoe & Johnson, the multinational law firm located next door at 1330 Connecticut Ave. NW, successfully argued that Rogue States was a private nuisance for venting its burger fumes into the firm’s offices. Judge John M. Mott ordered the burger shop to cease operations.
“As an act of good faith, we shared with [Steptoe] all the drawings and plans,” Mendizabal says.
Thomas M. Barba, a partner and general counsel for Steptoe, confirms that the firm reviewed some “very rudimentary plans,” but said they had “little time to comment” on them. Barba acknowledges that as long as Mendizabal eliminates the nuisance, Rogue States/Black & Orange can operate any way it likes.
“I hope they are fully compliant and that everything goes fine and that they are successful,” Barba says. “If the smell doesn’t intrude on me, I intend to eat burgers.”
At the same time Mendizabal plans to reopen Rogue States/Black & Orange on Dupont — pending a final mechanical inspection next week — the owner says his second burger shop is on track for a late-August or early-September opening. It’s located at 1931 14th St. NW, right off U Street in the former Bargain World Inc. space.
So, will Mendizabal invite Steptoe lawyers to the grand reopening of his burger joint?
“Invite them? No,” he says. “But I would take their money if they want to come.”
He says he could use the cash.