AUSTIN (KXAN) — Neighbors who live behind Terry Black’s Barbecue on Barton Springs Road have filed a lawsuit against the restaurant claiming the smoke coming from the restaurant is a nuisance.
The lawsuit claims the barbeque joint’s five smokestacks burn wood 15 hours a day which is causing damage to their property as well as mental anguish and physical impairment. Terry Black’s has been in their current location for the past year.
“The smoke, both the particles and the odors permeate into homes,” said Guy Watts, the attorney who is representing 15 neighbors on Daniel Dr. who are bothered by the smoke.
Watts said for the past year they’ve tried to work out a solution with the restaurant, but nothing worked, which is while they filed the lawsuit.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if your windows and doors are closed, you can still smell the smoke inside your house,” said Watts, who also lives on Daniel Dr. “We have a neighbor, 6 months ago never really had a respiratory problem, but he does now, my son has greater respiratory problems now than he did 18 months ago.”
He said some of the plaintiff’s he’s representing have lived on Daniel Dr. anywhere from seven to 35 years. He said other restaurants have come and gone in the past, but Terry Black’s is the only one they’ve had an issue with.
“We understand there’s going to be exhaust that comes out of a restaurant kitchen and we never had a problem with that,” said Watts. “Terry Black’s Barbecue is an outlier in comparison to other BBQ restaurants in terms in how much wood he is burning on a daily and a weekly basis.”
The lawsuit states Terry Black’s has “failed to act as a reasonable restaurant owner by continually polluting the air in and around its property with wood smoke. A reasonable restaurant owner, under similar conditions, would choose to smoke its meat off-site.”
Watts said the smoke is worse during the winter months it can be worse and the
“The incessant wood smoke from Terry Black’s Barbecue drifts onto Plaintiffs’ properties and into their homes. Defendant Terry Black’s conduct is negligent because it knew or should have known its conduct involved an unreasonable risk of interference to its neighbors’ private use and enjoyment of their property.”
“We’ve got concerns on health, both presently and into the future because we know smoke particles effect older people and younger people at a greater rate,” said Watts. “Our property values have gone down we have two of us have certified letters from our appraisal hearings that was entirely focused on Terry Black’s behavior.
Watts said the lawsuit is not about money, it’s about removing the smoke completely.
Terry Black’s Barbeque response
In a statement Terry Black stated, “We strongly disagree with these allegations and will vigorously defend our actions in and out of the court. Please be advised that we have discussed this issue in detail and in good faith with the neighbors via face-to-face talks, telephone conversations, email and text.”
The restaurant said it has made progress and, “as a result of our talks and efforts to be good neighbors, we have spent thousands of dollars making changes to our pits and cooking operations in November and early December.”
Terry said the changes have resulted in using less wood and in the warmer months. He said they’ve consulted different people and companies about the their situation and how to solve it.
The statement continues to say, “We have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours working on a solution that is in the best interest of all parties involved. In April and May we installed forced air induction equipment (scrubbers) on all stacks.”
Terry Black’s said the addition of scrubbers has, “greatly reduced the amount of concentrated smoke emitting from our stacks. This is visibly evident as we speak.”
The company said it will continue to work with its neighbors to resolve the issue in the best interest for all parties involved.
Regulating bbq smoke
In March, Councilmember “Pio” Renteria introduced a resolution to implement a code amendment to mitigate the effects of smoke emissions from restaurants and mobile food vendors near residentially zoned areas. On April 2, the Austin City Council passed the smoke emissions resolution which directed the city manager to conduct hearings to gather stakeholder input.
“That was meant to ensure that a potential ordinance would avoid creating undue burdens on business owners who are good neighbors and respectful of their communities. From this Councilmember Renteria hoped to ensure everyone’s voice would be heard,” said David Chincanchan, who is Renteria’s policy aide.
The Economic Opportunity Committee took up the item in May and has made recommendations. The Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to discuss the item at their Aug. 3 meeting.