Tuesday, October 25, 2016

So Who Has to be Tolerant Here?

It was a Twitter headline that I just had to tap: "Neighbors Complain Madison BBQ Joint Smells Like Meat".  It led me to a Capitol Times article detailing a battle between people living in the Williamson Street neighborhood and a restaurant that serves "real" barbecue.

For those who aren't familiar with what the locals call "Willy Street", it is probably the most liberal part of the most liberal city in the state.  It's the kind of neighborhood where you don't even put out a garbage bin every week--because your waste is either recyclable or it is composting in the back yard--and putting out a campaign sign for a Republican candidate is considered "hate speech".  It's also the kind of neighborhood where the people preach "tolerance for others"--but in true liberal fashion--don't actually practice it.

So these folks are upset with That BBQ Joint and the aroma of smoked meat that eminates from it.  (I've checked on-line reviews of the place and they are generally positive--pointing out that you need to get there early or the most popular meats may be sold out--which tells me this is not a "fake" BBQ place that amazingly prepares a rack of ribs for you in just 15-minutes).  As an aspiring BBQ Pitmaster myself, I would be more than happy to have that place as a neighbor--as much for the good eats nearby, as for the beautiful smell of pork shoulder or brisket slow-cooking over wood.

But Willy Street has vegans living there--and they can't "tolerate" the smell of meat.  So they are demanding that the restaurant install incredibly expensive 'scrubbers" to remove the "offensive odor" coming from the BBQ pits.  Environmentalists are also concerned about the "carcinogens" produced by burning wood as well.

In a city like Madison, you would think that opposition from these two groups would spell doom for That BBQ Joint--but the owners are playing the race card.  One of them is of mixed racial heritage--and he claims that opposition to his restaurant is "white privilege"--saying "These complaints are the way people harass minority-owned businesses" (and when you think about it, most people do complain about "the smell" of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Mexican restaurants--but not the steakhouse or fish fry place right across the street).  What's more, the Joint owners point out that they also serve a largely minority clientele (which has led to complaints about noise coming from the business as well).

This is a situation that bears watching--because as we increasingly become a nation of "persecuted minorities" and "victims of institutional discrimination" it becomes more and more difficult to determine who has to be "tolerant" by "being offended"--and who gets their way.

Now if we were still a nation of laws and not "feelings", this situation could be fixed with two simple questions: "Is the property zoned Commercial for use as a restaurant?"--yes--and "Do the emissions coming from the restaurant meet EPA standards for particulate matter and composition?"--yes, again.  There you go, That BBQ Joint stays.  That was easy.

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