Update, October 17, 2 p.m.: The lawsuits mentioned in this piece were dismissed upon agreement of the parties as of August and September 2022.
The owner of Krab Queenz, the Louisiana-born seafood restaurant known for its butter-drenched crab legs and shrimp that opened in Houston in 2018, is suing Instagram star Kway over alleged copyright infringement after a business deal between the two went south.
According to filings made with the Harris County District Court on September 23, Krab Queenz owner Tonique Clay is suing former business partner Kwaylon Rogers, better known on Instagram as @blameitonkway, alleging that Rogers is attempting to pass off the seafood restaurant’s iconic buttery sauces as his own under a new brand name.
According to the petition filed by Clay’s attorney, Rogers “resigned” from his role as a partner in Krab Queenz in May 2021 via text message, then proceeded to develop his own line of seafood butter sauces called Smack ‘Em Sauce. According to Clay’s attorneys, the recipes for those sauces — which include classic seafood boil flavor profiles like lemon pepper and Cajun seasoning — were lifted from the ones she created for Krab Queenz.
“[The] butter sauces are unique sauce recipes that come in various flavors, developed by Clay to accompany and enhance the taste of any food they are eaten with,” the suit reads. “This launch of a competing product is extremely damaging in addition to being in violation of the agreement between the parties.”
The petition alleges that Rogers was aware of the recipes for the sauces during his time as part of the company, and signed a confidentiality agreement that would protect them as trade secrets. Krab Queenz co-founder Natasha Burton is also named in the suit as Rogers’s business partner in Smack ‘Em Sauces, which officially launched on September 25. According to the company’s Instagram account, the bottled sauces sold out in less than half an hour.
In a supplemental declaration filed with the court, Clay alleges that Burton told her via phone of plans to “tweak” Krab Queenz’s recipes by adjusting the amounts of each seasoning “in an effort to get around the trade secret.”
The filing also cites Rogers’s massive Instagram following of more than 5 million people as a reason why the copyright infringement would be particularly damaging to Krab Queenz. “Rogers is a ‘social media influencer’ with a significant platform,” the petition reads. “It would be difficult to overcome his celebrity in the market if he is allowed to sell Krab Queenz butter sauces as his own.”
On September 24, Harris County judge Kyle Carter partially granted a temporary restraining order that prohibits Rogers and Burton from destroying any records related to the businesses, but did not grant Clay’s request that the duo be prohibited from selling Smack ‘Em Sauces while the case is still pending.
In the suit, Clay seeks unspecified financial damages, plus interest, along with court costs and attorneys fees. Rogers and Burton have not yet responded to the suit in court, but a hearing on the temporary injunction is set for October 8.