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Austin’s Barbecue Smoke Regulation Is Denied by City Council Committee

Barbecue is safe for now.

Terry Black's Barbecue
Terry Black's Barbecue
Robert J. Lerma/EATX
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Every member of the Austin City Council's Health and Human Services Committee voted against the proposed smoke regulation that would have changed the city’s barbecue scene. Instead, the committee suggested that Austin deal with the complaints to 311 on a case-by-case basis, as reported by The Statesman. If the charges are justified, it would go to either the Health Department or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

In March, District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria recommended the potential updated code that would require restaurants and trailers to place wood- or charcoal-burning grills at least one hundred feet from all residentially zoned properties, and install pricy smoke scrubbers. As part of the stakeholder process initiated after the April city council meeting, two committee meetings had to explore the proposal. The Economic Development committee voted against the regulation during its meeting in May, too.

District 9 council member Kathie Tovo, who is also part of the Health and Human Services committee, elaborated on her vote to The Statesman, but left the issue open for reexamining in the future:

[S]he didn’t want to place an "undue burden" on food establishments throughout the city that are "good neighbors." But, referring to a lawsuit recently filed by Austin residents who say the smoke drifting from Terry Black’s Barbecue has harmed their quality of life, Tovo said the council may need to return to the issue. "I will say that I do not want to see communities be in the position of having to take things through the legal system if it’s a nuisance that the city should be regulating," Tovo said. "There may be a need to come back and revisit this issue and see if we need to tweak our city’s nuisance ordinance to provide citizens some relief from situations where the only path of responsiveness, it sounds like, is through a state agency."

Terry Black’s is currently facing a lawsuit from neighbors in Bouldin Creek over the smoke from its pits. The plantiffs are asking for compensation for expenses incurred while dealing medical and other expenses related to the fumes.

Terry Black's BBQ

1003 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX (512) 394-5899 Visit Website