AUSTIN (KXAN) — For barbeque lovers, the smell of smoke wafting through the air is an integral part of the whole smoked meat process. For some barbeque restaurants, a new City of Austin ordinance could make it hard for some of those places to stay in business.
A resolution sponsored by Council member “Pio” Renteria will require restaurants and mobile food vendors that are within 150 feet of homes and use a wood or charcoal burning stove or grill to install exhaust systems, otherwise known as smoke scrubbers. Restaurant-grade scrubbers are used to remove grease vapor, smoke and particulates from the cooking process.
Several council members believe the smoke being emitted from these businesses are having an adverse affect on the health and quality of life of the people who live nearby. Renteria says he’s fielded calls from concerned constituents.
“Saying that if this keeps on, they were just going to have to sell their house and move out,” said Renteria. “The whole resolution is not to try and run anyone out of business it’s just we all want to be good neighbors.”
This requirement does not apply to locations that burn supplemental wood chips and chunks in stove-top box smokers using gas-powered stoves or grills.
“We would have to leave town most likely, or just close up because it’s just not an option to put scrubbers in for eight smoke stacks,” explained Aaron Franklin, founder of the popular Franklin BBQ on East 11th Street.
Franklin says a solution is out there but they just have to find one so Austinites can enjoy BBQ without living in smoke.
“This BBQ thing creates a ton of revenue here in town,” said Franklin, who understands that something needs to be done to help neighbors cope with the smoke, but he feels that scrubbers are not the answer.
The Austin City Council will discuss and possibly take action on the item on Thursday, April 2.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, any activity or workplace that causes contaminants to be released in the air in Texas requires authorization from the TCEQ.
Last year, Terry Black’s Barbeque on Barton Springs Road received two TCEQ complaints alleging smoke nuisance. When TCEQ staff checked the restaurant, the smoke observed was not considered a nuisance and no violations were cited.
La Barbeque has seen visits from TCEQ as well. In 2014, there were two complaints regarding smoke and in both instances TCEQ staff determined there was no violation.