Steptoe pwns burger joint.

This afternoon brings some major news for hamburger lovers in the nation’s capital. In the lawsuit brought by Steptoe & Johnson against Rogue States Burgers, in an effort to stop Rogue States’ rogue smells from infiltrating law firm airspace, Big Law has triumped over big beef patties. Judge John M. Mott of D.C. Superior Court just ruled that the burger fumes from Rogue States must be abated immediately.

Judge Mott ordered Rogue States to stop its grilling operations by the end of today. Due to the unavailability of easy solutions to the smell problem — an alternate ventilation plan has been nixed by the building landlord — Judge Mott “effectively issued a death sentence for the Dupont Circle burger joint,” as noted by Tim Carman of the Washington City Paper.

A disconsolate reader emailed this reaction to us: “sad. i am pleading to obama, burger lover president, to intervene.”

(Don’t hold your breath. Despite his willingness to talk to them without preconditions, Obama isn’t known for his love of Rogue States. We’re not talking about Ben’s Chili Bowl.)

It would be easy to snark on a large white-shoe law firm — represented by another large law firm, Pillsbury Winthrop — going to court to beat up on a local burger joint. But Steptoe might be a more sympathetic plaintiff than some might think….

Over at the City Paper’s Young & Hungry blog, Tim Carman, who was there for almost the entire three-day trial, has a balanced assessment of the situation. He writes:

Steptoe employees do have a stench problem in their building, and despite all the jokes that these pampered lawyers are just pussies, I don’t think anyone would want to work in a space that made you feel like covering yourself in barbecue sauce….

If the legal definition of a nuisance is a “substantial and unreasonable interference” with the enjoyment of one’s property, then I have to conclude, based on the evidence at the trial, that Rogue States is a nuisance. For reasons that nobody can fully explain, the exhaust from Rogue’s grill, despite an expensive scrubber system installed in April, would appear to continue to reach the nostrils of those beleaguered barristers next door.

And it’s affecting not just the barristers, but the staff as well. And it’s causing not just a little smelliness, but health issues. As reported in the BLT, Steptoe employees testified that the meaty fumes were causing headaches, nausea, and watery eyes.

In his ruling, Judge Mott — a member of the legal profession himself, of course — seemed to preemptively refute the whole “Big Bad Lawyers v. Innocent Little Burger People” line of attack. He wrote: “[This case] was not about anyone trying to run a small establishment out of business, nor is it about a small business that does not care about its neighbors. It’s about the nuisance that interferes with the use, comfort, and enjoyment of [Steptoe’s] place of business.”

If you are a devotee of Rogue States burgers, here’s some consolation, via Young & Hungry:

If there’s any silver lining to this situation, it’s this fact, which came out earlier in the trial under direct examination by the plaintiffs’ lawyer Deborah Baum [of Pillsbury Winthrop]. In trying to show that the closing of Rogue States wouldn’t hurt the business as much as [owner Raynold] Mendizabal has indicated, she asked him he had signed a lease for another location of the burger joint. He said that he had.

It looks as if Rogue States in Dupont may be dead. But another one will open at some point at 1931 14th St. NW in the former Bargain World Inc. space.

I’ve never tried a Rogue States burger; I moved out of D.C. in 2008, before they set up shop in Dupont Circle. If you’ve tried a Rogue States burger, feel free to render your verdict, in the comments.

P.S. Steptoe & Johnson is one of the few large law firms with a Twitter presence, but the firm has yet to tweet about how it chewed up and spat out Rogue States Burgers.

Rogue States Is Likely Closed for Good At Its Dupont Location
[Young & Hungry / Washington City Paper]
Y&H Delivers His Own Verdict in Steptoe vs. Rogue States Trial
[Young & Hungry / Washington City Paper]
Steptoe Wins ‘Burger Case,’ Rogue States to Shut Down [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]


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