Restaurants

Hooters' franchisee embroiled in legal battle shutters New Jersey restaurant

Features & Faces: Hooters chain says a couple franchise-owned restaurants werent living up to its high standards

 

A Hooters franchise owner already in hot water with corporate headquarters has had to shutter another restaurant due to deplorable conditions.

According to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Hooters of America, swarming flies and a plumbing backup plagued a now-abandoned restaurant in Paramus, N.J. That Hooters location is the latest to fall into "deplorable" conditions and will further damage the company's national brand, the Georgia-based company alleged in recent court filings.

In June, Hooters of America sued Hoot Owl Restaurants, which operates several Hooters establishments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, claiming that the franchise operator is damaging the Hooters brand by routinely failing health inspections and leaving abandoned restaurants in disrepair.

Before the lawsuit was filed, Hoot Owl operated a dozen Hooters throughout the Northeast but has since shuttered four locations. The parent company says those shutdowns harm the company’s image.

"This third closure of one of Hoot Owl's franchised restaurants will cause even more damage to the goodwill of the Hooters brand," Hooters of America stated in court filings.

The Paramus location, the latest Hoot Owl-owned restaurant to close, reportedly failed a food safety test performed in August by an independent inspector hired by the parent company, reports NorthJersey.com. Issues included "plumbing backup present all throughout basement” and “standing pools of water.” The day after the inspection, Hoot Owl closed the Paramus eatery restaurant without notifying the parent company.

According to court documents, Hoot Owl is trying to defend its actions by saying it's currently involved in a dispute with the landlord of the Paramus building, which is attached to a La Quinta motel.

Three lawyers for Hoot Owl Restaurants, which operates the East Coast group of Hooters restaurants, didn't respond to requests for comment. Calls and emails to the Georgia-based parent firm were not returned Tuesday or Wednesday.

At the Warwick restaurant, 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.

Hooters is hoping the federal judge will decide what states govern its franchise agreements with Hoot Owl so that it can terminate their 20 year contract.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.