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When Partners Fight, It's Always The Brisket That Suffers

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A Dallas district court is presiding over a series of disputes between Nhat Ngo and Charles "Lucky" Johnson, co-owners of Luckie's Smokehouse in Oak Cliff. Ngo filed suit against his partner earlier this summer, requesting a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction. His suit brands Johnson a drunk and accuses him of skimming money from the register.

Over the weeks the courtroom drama escalated, with Johnson filing a countersuit claiming Ngo cooked the books in an attempt to frame his partner and squandered the restaurant's finances himself. Johnson alleges conversion of funds for personal use, drug abuse, and tampering with evidence among other complaints. The case has gotten so messy District Judge Gena Slaughter refused to hear a recent amendment, choosing to take a summer vacation instead.

Johnson and Ngo have been a dysfunctional business duo for some time, running bars together for 10 years before opening Luckie's off of Interstate 30 in 2009. The restaurant was unsuccessful and ultimately closed. Undaunted, Johnson and Ngo tried again, taking the time and effort to convert an old gas station in Oak Cliff into a full service restaurant.

Reviews of the new location have been lackluster. The Dallas Morning News awarded the new location a single star, citing uneven brisket and flat sauces. Popular local blogger Barbecue Snob cited the same problems.

The restaurant build-out, however, received consistent praise, boasting a sizable covered patio and a large bar and dining room. The building, owned by three landlords, received significant improvement in preparation for Luckie's arrival. While the building owners refused to talk on the record, they did confirm their tenants are behind on rent and the location will likely be closing in days.

On Monday the court plans to review the financial records of the business in an attempt to get closer to a ruling, but with Ngo in charge of the paperwork, and Johnson's claims of forgery, it may be difficult for officials to determine which partner is responsible for the failing business.

The landlords would not confirm who they're talking with for potential replacement tenants, but it looks like Oak Cliff could have another barbecue restaurant to try again soon.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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