CRESTVIEW — Concerns involving a Main Street restaurateur’s barbecue smoker have heated up as his attorney and city attorney Jerry Miller traded increasingly sharp legal opinions.
The city ordinance under which the Rev. Albert Wright was requested to move his smoker from a parking spot in front of his restaurant to the rear is vague, Attorney Dixie Dan Powell said.
"I really have read it about 100 times but it really doesn't make any sense why we need to be here," Powell said during Monday's City Council meeting.
He suggested amending the ordinance as a “pretty simple solution and request to solve this problem.”
When he opened The Wright Choice Soul Food, Wright said he received city permission to operate his smoker in front of the restaurant, where it became a landmark that attracted customers.
Powell hinted that unless a solution could be found, Wright had grounds to sue the city for a “very substantial loss-of-income claim.”
Miller’s objected to placing the smoker in a parking spot, using the city’s transportation infrastructure for an incompatible use.
“You have dedicated right-of-ways for transportation uses,” Miller said to the City Council. “The proposed use is not for transportation.”
THE 24-INCH RULE
Powell cited an exception to the ordinance that allows businesses to place articles related to the business on the sidewalk within 24 inches of the building.
He said this would allow Wright to move his smoker to the sidewalk.
“The way I interpret this ordinance, there’s nothing illegal about Mr. Wright placing his wares within 24 inches of his business,” Powell said.
“I don't see this as an exhibition of wares,” Miller said. “This is a hot cooking container that you can't walk up and touch.”
Councilwoman Robyn Helt asked Fire Chief Joe Traylor to offer his opinion.
“Can you cook on a grill? Yes,” Traylor said. “Can you cook on a grill on Main Street? Yes. We do it periodically at events that are sanctioned by the city. Is there a safety factor at risk when we do that? Of course.”
Traylor cited as an example the recent fire at Buddy’s View BBQ, which damaged the South Ferdon Boulevard business’s food trailer while it was parked in a parking lot before it could open to the public.
“I think what you have is a situation that calls for legislation to strengthen your ordinances,” Miller advised the council.
The council took no action on the matter, with Council President Shannon Hayes asking Miller and Powell to meet and try to find common ground to resolve the issue.