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23 Catt. 3: In re Shanghai Lounge

2013 September 18

CATTLEYA, J., delivered the opinion of the Cart.

The question before the Cart today is whether we have jurisdiction to review Shanghai Lounge (“SL”), an Asian fusion restaurant located on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. The owner of SL is not wholly unfamiliar to the Justices of this court. SL’s owner comes from Hot People Food, a food truck that we have twice reviewed. See In re Hot People Food (The Hot People Dumplings Case), 6 Catt. 4 (2012); In re Hot People Food (The Sassy Chicken Case), 7 Catt. 2 (2012).

I. Governing Authority

Although the Judiciary Act of 2011 (Cartiorari Act) limits the Supreme Cart’s jurisdiction to “food carts, trucks, and other transitory alimentary establishments,” we have exercised jurisdiction over non-mobile, brick-and-mortar (B&M) establishments on the basis of “[a] relationship with a mobile gastronomic enterprise . . . within our jurisdiction.” SUNdeVICH v. SUNdeVICH, 22 Catt. 1 (2013).

In In re Curbside Cupcakes Kiosk, 20 Catt. 4 (2013) and SUNdeVICH v. SUNdeVICH, 22 Catt. 1 (2013), we reviewed two permanent locations (a stationary kiosk inside a shopping mall and a B&M shop, respectively) because the owners operated food trucks and the permanent locations served the same menu items as the food trucks. Then in In re SUNdeVICH, 22 Catt. 2 (2013), we expanded our jurisdiction to review different menu items served by a B&M that was affiliated with a food truck, so long as the new menu items were presented under the same branding as the food truck. Most recently, in In re Captain Cookie & The Milkman at Thomas Foolery, 23 Catt. 2 (2013), we granted jurisdiction to a B&M that was unaffiliated with a food truck but had entered into an agreement to serve the food truck’s dishes. Jurisdiction was appropriate because the unaffiliated B&M served the food truck’s dishes to customers in the original form intended by the food truck.

Under our case law, a gastronomic enterprise need not be mobile to fall within our jurisdiction if the nature of its relationship with a food truck is sufficient to warrant review. A “sibling” relationship can qualify. This type of relationship exists when the food truck and B&M come under the same ownership or are part of a single business model. For the Cart to have jurisdiction over the sibling B&M, two conditions must be satisfied. First, the food truck must be in operation along with the B&M; that is, the food truck cannot be defunct. Second, the B&M must either serve the same menu items as the food truck, or if it serves different menu items, it must do so under the same branding as the food truck. However, a B&M might still fall under our jurisdiction even without a “sibling” relationship with a food truck. A B&M, without any prior relationship with a food truck, may enter into an agreement to serve the food truck’s menu items. In this situation, the court may exercise jurisdiction if the B&M serves the food truck’s menu items in the original form intended by the food truck.

II. Analysis

In the present case, the B&M (Shanghai Lounge) and food truck (Hot People Food) have a sibling relationship, as they share a common owner. See Jessica Sidman, Owner of Hot People Food Now Operating Georgetown Chinese Restaurant, Young & Hungry (May 2, 2013). Because a sibling relationship exists here, our analysis must proceed to determine whether the two conditions required by our case law are satisfied.

Does Hot People Food operate concurrently with SL? In order to exercise jurisdiction over SL, Hot People Food cannot be defunct. While Hot People Food has not been in service for several months, the owner has said that the food truck will be back on the road. Id. Because the food truck has not been shut down, this first condition is met.

Does SL serve the same menu items, or different menu items under the same branding? SL’s menu is different from Hot People Food’s. Neither Hot People Food’s “Bikini Beef” nor “Sassy Chicken” appears on SL’s menu. Admittedly, we do not know for sure that none of SL’s beef or chicken dishes is the same as “Bikini Beef” or “Sassy Chicken.” This is because we received multiple versions of “Sassy Chicken” on different days and so we do not know what “Sassy Chicken” is. However, SL does not call any of its dishes “Bikini Beef” or “Sassy Chicken.” In addition, it has been reported that SL’s “menu is completely separate from Hot People’s menu.” Id. Thus, we conclude that the menu items are different.

Because SL’s menu items are different from Hot People Food’s, we may exercise jurisdiction over SL only if SL presents these different menu items under the same branding as the Hot People Food truck. It does not. The Hot People Food name does not appear anywhere on SL’s website. The “About Us” section of the website introduces the owner but makes no mention of the owner’s experience in the mobile food business. Moreover, the record shows that the owner considered changing SL’s name to Hot People but ultimately chose not to adopt the name. Id. It seems clear to us that SL’s menu is not branded under the Hot People Food name and that this decision was made purposefully. Therefore, because SL’s distinct menu does not fall under Hot People Food’s branding, the second condition is not satisfied.

III. Conclusion

The Cart does not have the power to review SL’s Asian fusion cuisine. Although the B&M is related to a food truck that is within our jurisdiction, the relationship is not the kind that permits us to expand our powers of review. The case is


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