Landry's Inc., the Houston-based company run by billionaire Tilman Fertitta, is suing a former employee now working for a competitor's restaurant, alleging breach of contract.
The suit, filed Tuesday in State District Civil Court, names former Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse manager Tim Kohler, Landmark Houston Hospitality Group and Mr. Peeples Seafood&Steaks.
Mr. Peeples, at 1911 Bagby in Midtown, is not yet open, according to its Facebook page.
The suit describes Mr. Peeples as "purportedly a restaurant and club operating in Houston ... somehow affiliated with defendant Landmark."
According to the suit, Kohler became general manager at Vic & Anthony's in September 2002. In that position, he signed agreements not to go to work for a competitor or "hire away" any Landry's employee.
In August, Landry's terminated Kohler "for performance-related reasons," the suit stated. He accepted a severance package that included a non-solicitation agreement stating he would not attempt to hire an employee of Landry's or its subsidiaries for five years, according to the court document.
The suit alleges that within months of signing the severance agreement, Kohler went to work for Landmark and Mr. Peeples and hired away Stacy Chambers, former sales manager at Vic & Anthony's.
According to the suit, Landry's sent "cease and desist" notices to the defendants upon learning of their alleged breach of contract, but the defendants ignored the request.
Landmark and its owner and founder, Dr. Lucky Chopra, and Mr. Peeples restaurant said in a written statement Friday that they had only recently learned of the agreements and had not had an opportunity to evaluate them.
'Room ... for both'
"Clearly, Vic & Anthony's views Mr. Peeples as significant competition," Landmark said in the statement issued through attorney Andrew Meade of Hawash Meade Gaston Neese & Cicack. "In reality, Mr. Peeples is a stylish, high energy, and vibrant alternative to the traditional steakhouse concept. We believe there is room and a need for both concepts in the growing Houston market."
Seeking fees, expenses
Landmark, which describes itself as "dedicated to developing Houston's historically significant properties into stylish hospitality venues," also owns Hearsay Gastrolounge downtown and 51Fifteen Restaurant & Lounge in the Galleria area.
Mr. Peeples is in a former Boy Scouts of America building.
Landry's, which owns more than 400 properties, including restaurants, hotels and the Kemah Boardwalk, is seeking recovery of attorney's fees and expenses incurred through the trial and any appeals.
Landry's corporate offices were closed Friday in observance of Good Friday. Landry's is represented in the suit by Sheehy, Ware & Pappas.