Hooters is suing a New Jersey-based franchisee for breach of contract by operating one restaurant in filthy conditions and leaving another abandoned.
The federal lawsuit, filed by Hooters of America on Monday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, accuses franchisee Hoot Owl Restaurants LLC, which has operated 12 Hooters restaurants in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania, of turning off customers by failing to maintain its restaurants in a hygienic condition and damaging the national brand,
According to the suit, Hoot Owl violated its agreement by abandoning Hooters restaurants in Warwick, Rhode Island, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and continuing to operate the former in “deplorable conditions” after several customer complaints.
In August 2013, one customer at the Warwick location filed the following complaint: “In the last year the place has really gone to hell. As soon as you enter, the window panes on the front door looks like they haven’t been cleaned in 6 months. The men’s restroom has a strong stench of urine.”
In July 2014, Hoot Owl “'voluntarily' closed the restaurant in order to perform necessary repairs and maintenance following a health department inspection," the lawsuit states.
But inspectors found mouse droppings in the bar area, "to-go" containers stored on a shelf with mouse droppings, and a smelly walk-in refrigerator, among other violations, according to a Rhode Island Department of Health report attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit.
After multiple negative reports from health inspectors, the same restaurant was then damaged by a storm in March 2015 and never reopened, Hooters' parent firm states. The company said it sent people to visit the restaurant recently and found all of the Hooters signs still in place, though the business has been closed for over a year.
Hooters' parent company is asking a federal judge to determine which state laws govern its rights to terminate its franchise agreements with Hoot Owl. There was no indication Wednesday how soon a judge might rule.
Hooters of America has already terminated Hoot Owl's franchise rights for three Hooters restaurants in the Philadelphia area, Hooters of America states in legal documents.
Representatives for Hooters and Hoot Owl did not immediately respond to FoxNews.com’s request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.