After years of legal drama between Rogue 24‘s R.J. Cooper and his business partner Hilda Staples, the chef says he is leaving the fine dining restaurant. Cooper, who has “Rogue” tattooed on his back, writes in an email to his partners that he plans to work with a major hotel company to open a restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. His last day will be New Year’s Eve.

Cooper says daily operations will be transferred to his business partner “until further legal settlement and discussions are finalized.” Lawsuits between the two parties stem from a $300,000 loan that Staples and her husband Jonathan Staples, an investor, obtained in Aug. 2011 to help with the restaurant’s start-up costs and operational expenses. The two sides disagree on who’s responsible for repaying it.

“Good riddance,” Staples says of the news. “Most chefs I know would have stayed and fought for their restaurant. He’s running out of town.”

Staples says there are no future plans for the restaurant right now.

Cooper’s other restaurant, Gypsy Soul, closed in August after the landlord had filed a lawsuit to evict the Mosaic District business.

UPDATE (12/16/15): Cooper follows up with this statement: “Mrs. Staples’ comments are unfortunate but not at all surprising. The court recently dismissed her lawsuit against us, so it comes as no surprise that she would cast aspersions in the press. There will be a time and place for the court to further determine her and her husband’s obligations to the company and its members.”

See Cooper’s full letter below:


New Year is quickly approaching and it gives me the perfect opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months, celebrate accomplishments and mark the great achievements. It is also a time to look into the future, open doors to challenges and welcome exciting new adventures.

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that this New Years Eve will be my last service as the lead of Rogue 24. I will be offering two seatings 6:00 pm and 9:30 pm as my last Journey menu. The transition does not translate into me losing full creative control over the experience of Rogue 24, but instead means that I will not be managing it on a daily basis.

Daily operations will be transferred to other partner until further legal settlement and discussions are finalized regarding the future of Rogue 24.

When one door closes, another opens. I have recently been presented with a great opportunity to work with a major hotel company to develop an innovative new restaurant concept at a major hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. This group has challenged me to develop a unique and world class culinary experience centered around my creative drive to push the boundaries past guest expectations. I am excited and looking forward to this new chapter in my journey.

I have been in the Washington DC culinary scene for nearly 17 years and the city has given me some of the greatest moments of my life that includes winning a James Beard Award establishing wonderful relationships with chefs, restaurant workers, owners and guests in the area, and most of all, starting a family,

I am humbled by the many great relationships that have been provided to me. I am especially humbled and thankful to Chef Jeff & Sallie Buben, Mike Nevarez and all the support teams of their empire for taking the risk and showing me how to truly be a chef.

To the team of Rogue 24 and its investors who let me create a unique dining experience, I am forever in your debt.

Goodbye for now DC and thanks for all the memories.

Photo of RJ Cooper by Jessica Sidman