Restaurateur forced to host monthly meetings after neighbors complain about smoke, noise

Two barbecue restaurateurs in Wisconsin must now attend monthly meetings with the local community if they want to keep their eatery open and maintain their liquor license.

On Saturday, Clement Henriques and Maureen White, owners of “That BBQ Joint” in Madison, closed their establishment for an hour to meet with neighbors in an attempt to find a solution to ongoing complaints of noise and the smell of cooking meat.

The planned discussion among 40 neighbors, customers and onlookers quickly turned into a wide-ranging debate, reports Channel 3000. Some brought up the politically active neighborhood's “white privilege issues” and complained about neighborhood association's approach in resolving conflicts between residents and businesses. A few meeting attendees reportedly asked if the black-owned restaurant was being singled due to racial factors. 

"I don't think that it's relevant," Jack Kear, a Marquette Neighborhood Association board member, told the group Saturday. 

"The neighborhood association is a group that covers Madison's most diverse neighborhood and we have worked with many local business owners who are people of color and other minorities and we have supported and hoped for the best for their businesses. In this case, even though there are concerns from some people that it is a racial issue, for us it comes down to the fact that it's just about smell and noi

Due to the complaints, however (and the lack of consensus at the meeting) the neighborhood association president requested that the city’s Alcohol License Review Committee require ongoing monthly meetings between the restaurant and the neighborhood in order for the eatery to keep serving alcohol legally and maintain its liquor license. Saturday’s meeting marked the restaurant's first official obligation to city residents. Details on the November meeting are still pending.

At the meeting, a restaurant neighbor suggested a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for an HVAC system to alleviate the smells.

But Henriques told The Cap Times that he wasn’t sure if any great potential ideas, besides the crowdfunded ventilation system, emerged from the get-together.

“Everyone here is going to talk to someone else,” he said. “That’s how you will get a solution. Perhaps we’ll get an e-mail in a couple days that says ‘I heard about this, here’s a viable solution for you.’”

“Are some people inconvenienced? I have no doubt. All of us are inconvenienced living in the city,” Henriques continued. “There’s something that’s going to be bother you. If you look hard enough, you’re going to find a whole bunch of stuff. And if you’re going to make it your life’s mission to complain about every single little thing, you’re going to be miserable. And you’re going to drag other people into it, too.”

Complaints over the odors emanating from barbecued food aren’t unique to the Madison establishment. In July 2015 a video went viral after a Florida man was warned for allowing the smell of cooking food to float off of his property. In the video a county environmental specialist issued a warning for violating the county’s air quality law.

No citation was issued in that case.