BBQ owners warn Austin City Council's beef with BBQ could ruin business
AUSTIN, Texas - It's the charred delicacy that's put Austin on the culinary map.
"Jimmy Kimmel talks about it, it's on TV, you can't turn on a food channel and not see something about Austin BBQ," explains Aaron Franklin.
People wait in line for hours just to get a taste of the BBQ that he churns out daily at his East Austin restaurant.
The eight pits at Franklin's were built so that smoke doesn't seep into their neighbors yards. Franklin's explanation?
"It's really more about smoker design and learn how to pick the right piece of wood."
But that's not the case at other places, like Terry Black's on Barton Springs. It's causing quite a stir for the people who live behind the South Austin staple.
The Black's tell FOX 7 that some of the residents have threatened to sue them.
"Is it right to force a resident to get to the point to say we have to move because we can't live like this because smoke is coming into their house," asks District 3 City Council Member Sabino "Pio" Renteria.
Renteria wants to pass an ordinance that would get the smoke under control. And he says, that no one had a problem with the restaurants that were in there before it became a BBQ joint.
"If he was anywhere else, with the size of those smoke pipes, it would go over the neighborhood."
Renteria's original proposal included installing exhaustive systems known as "smoke scrubbers." Franklin says they are incredibly expensive, even for a successful restaurant like his. He says if he had to install them, it would cost him anywhere from $10,000 - $15,000 a smoker.
"It's not really meant for wood fires. They are more meant for industrial usage, plants," he explains.
Franklin met with Renteria on Monday to encourage him to find some common ground, like taking the "smoke scrubbers" out of the proposed resolution. Renteria says it will now be included as a suggestion.
The resolution is also being amended so that smokers are one hundred feet from residential property lines. It was 150. So while it won't affect Franklin's, it will affect trailers which Franklin's was at one time.
"It's not about we're in a trailer, we're the little guy," says Franklin. "We're all little people. We are a local business and that's what makes this community a community."
Renteria says he's not trying to put anyone out of business.
"I sympathize with the owner but he needs to find a way to eliminate all of that smoke into the neighborhood."
Franklin hopes that finding that way through compromise will keep Austin on the map as the BBQ mecca for many years to come.
The resolution is slated to go in front of the Austin City Council later this week. Residents and businesses will get their chance to have some input before anyone signs off on or votes for the ordinance.