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D.C. judge orders Rogue States burger joint to stop grilling

By Amanda Becker
Capital Business Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 11:29 PM

A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled the popular Dupont Circle eatery Rogue States a nuisance on Tuesday and ordered it to stop grilling hamburgers after an eight-month dispute with a neighboring law firm over its "intense and noxious odor."

Judge John M. Mott ordered the restaurant to stop grilling after it closes early Wednesday morning. Over three days of testimony, Mott said he had heard "ample evidence" to conclude that the restaurant at 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW is to blame for the itchy and watery eyes, nausea and headaches suffered by employees of Steptoe & Johnson.

Although Mott ordered the restaurant only to cease grilling, he acknowledged that "the effect" of the ruling could force it to close its doors given its menu consists solely of hamburgers and french fries.

Lawyers for the restaurant expressed disappointment with the ruling.

"While today's decision is not what we had hoped for, it is not the end of the line for Rogue States," said attorney Gary C. Adler of Roetzel & Andress. "We are exploring all options at this point."

Mott left open the possibility that the restaurant could resume cooking if it upgrades or moves its exhaust system from its current location on a second-story roof, which is surrounded on three sides by tall buildings and creates a canyon that pipes grease fumes directly into Steptoe's building, the law firm has said.

Rogue States previously borrowed money from its landlord to upgrade its exhaust system, but Mott said that the choice was not the "appropriate system" needed and that relocating the vent to the top of the 10-story building may be necessary.

This case "is not about anyone trying to run a small establishment out of business. . . . It is also not about a small business without care about its neighbors," Mott said, encouraging the parties to work toward a resolution that could keep Rogue States and its 30 employees in business.

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