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Council Member Wants Limits on Barbecue Smoke Near Homes

Joshua Bousel
An employee at La Barbecue slices brisket. A proposal by an Austin city council member could lead to limits on smoke emissions by some barbecue restaurants and trailers.

Austin has experienced a barbecue renaissance over the last five years with national accolades pouring on the likes of Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Co. Now some people living near the smoke pits are complaining about the smell.

District Three City Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria wants the city managerto come up with rules to clamp down on barbecue trailers and restaurants located near residential areas. 

"People cannot even open their windows without having their house smelling like barbecue," he says. "Whatever they're barbecuing out there, when they start their fire, it's really thick smoke. No one wants it." 

He mentioned two businesses specifically – Terry Black's Barbecue on Riverside Drive and La Barbecue on East Cesar Chavez Street.

La Barbecue's general manager Alison Clem says one neighbor has complained, and she believes the criticism is overblown. 

"We've walked in front of his house to see what the smell is, and we don't smell anything," she says. "It's really strange to me because Austin is one of the new barbecue capitals, and people are upset about the smoke. We don't think it's as hardcore as they're saying." 

The issue was scheduled to go before the city council Thursday, March 26. It has been rescheduled for April 2 at the request of Renteria's office to give them more time to prepare. The ordinance would direct the city manager to find a way to "mitigate the effects of smoke emissions." 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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