When Dan Rowe decided to open The Chickery in a Dupont Circle-area storefront, he called his would-be neighbors to assure them that the smell from his grills would not creep over to their law firm.
And there was good reason for that overture. In 2010, the neighboring law firm, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, sued Rogue States hamburger joint, which was at the soon-to-open Chickery spot at 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW, for overwhelming cooking smells that it said seeped into its law firm offices and made employees sick.
During three days of trial testimony in D.C. Superior Court, according to a Washington Post article at the time, Steptoe employees described grilling fumes that left them with “watery and itchy eyes, nausea and debilitating headaches. The odor was so pervasive that a top rainmaker threatened to leave the firm if his secretary’s complaints were not resolved.”
The judge effectively forced the place to shut down and, more than $300,000 in attorney fees and ventilation upgrades later, it reopened as Black & Orange. Black & Orange closed its Dupont location last December and The Chickery is the latest restaurant to open at that 1,700-square-foot location.
Rowe, the CEO of Fransmart — a franchise development company that has a majority stake in The Chickery — said the ventilation system was updated when Black & Orange reopened to ensure that fumes and smells don’t make their way to Steptoe & Johnson’s law offices.
“We’re quite confident there won’t be a problem,” said Rowe, adding that Black & Orange had fixed the problems when it reopened, but he still hired an engineer to ensure there wouldn’t be odor issues. “And we don’t emit half the steam or smell [as the burger place].”
Steptoe & Johnson similarly doesn’t expect the smell of chicken to disturb its law practice.
“We’ve already welcomed a courtesy call from the new owner, and know that he is committed to best practices in maintaining the new venting system that was installed upon the resolution of the dispute with the prior tenant,” spokeswoman Kathy King wrote in an e-mail. “We anticipate no problems, and are looking forward to welcoming our new Canadian neighbors and eating their chicken.”
The Chickery is a fast-casual chicken place in Toronto. It is slated to open a second Toronto store soon, with D.C. being its first U.S. outpost. Rowe said there are plans to open additional stores in the D.C. area and throughout the country.