Judge Bans Rocco from His Own Restaurant

07/28/2004 at 09:00 AM EDT

Judge Bans Rocco from His Own Restaurant
RICHARD C. MURRAY/LFI
It's gotten pretty hot in Rocco DiSpirito's kitchen.

On Tuesday, a New York judge barred the TV chef from the site of his NBC reality show The Restaurant, and told his financial backer he could pull out of the enterprise because the place was operating at a loss.

"I don't think you are obligated to run a restaurant that's losing money," Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman told DiSpirito's partner, Jeffrey Chodorow, reports Reuters.

At the end of a two-day hearing, Gammerman (who also presided over the Rosie O'Donnell and Woody Allen cases) also issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting DiSpirito from entering Rocco's Italian eatery on 22nd Street, where the show was filmed.

The case will resume Aug. 31, at which time trial will determine such issues as whether a partnership ever existed between the two men, and if so, whether DiSpirito breach their agreement.

In seeking a restraining order against DiSpirito, Chodorow had asked the judge for permission to sell the restaurant and end their stormy relationship.

In his $6 million filed countersuit against Chodorow, the 37-year-old DiSpirito charges his partner with cooking the books.

Chodorow's lawyer, Laurence Kaiser, indicated to the judge that his client may sell the restaurant or re-open it under entirely different auspices – and tastes – by the end of next month.

"We may even have guest chefs," Kaiser said outside the courtroom when pressed for details.

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