No, not open anymore...unfortunately for many, thankfully for some
Not long after Mike’s BBQ opened their second location at 3055 Clairemont Drive, residents in the condos next door started complaining about the smoky smell.
View of Mike's BBQ exhaust system from Bay Ridge condos
The first complaint was lodged on July 5, 2015. According to Heidi Gabriel-Pack, a civil actions investigator for the Air Pollution Control District, out of 788 complaints received by the district since July 2015, 229 (or 29%) were for Mike's BBQ.
After 14 county investigations, the first notice of violation was issued in August; two more notices followed in September 2015 and February 2016. When complaints continued, the district filed for an order of abatement. A hearing was originally scheduled for May but postponed until June.
The hearing on June 9 was attended by more than 20 people. The first to testify was Jason Miller, the lead inspector who conducted 75 of the 97 investigations. Miller showed a recent photo and video of plumes of smoke coming from the exhaust on the roof of Mike’s BBQ. Topography maps showed that the closest complainant lives 200 feet from the restaurant.
The closest complainant lives 200 feet from the restaurant.
“Prevailing wind patterns are a big factor,” Miller said. “I’ve recorded winds of eight miles per hour coming down the hallways of the condos. This is significant.” He also said the majority of the complaints are from residents on the south side of the building.
The lawyer for Steve Olson (owner of Mike’s BBQ) testified next. Ben Wagner started off by arguing that, “Mike’s BBQ has a smell, not an odor. It’s BBQ, not sewer or chemicals.”
Wagner suggested that some complainants aren’t used to living next to a shopping center. He also alluded to some sort of “vendetta,” saying the BBQ place that preceded Mike’s at the same site had no complaints. He also offered up El Niño as a possible culprit.
“Mike’s BBQ installed apparatus but have had too many complaints about the quality of food after the change,” said Wagner. "Mike’s needs to be able to operate as a BBQ joint — quality of taste is needed to succeed.”
Next up was the landlord for the Clairemont Village shopping center, where Mike’s BBQ is located. She explained that they spent $20,000 on equipment that Olson installed to better the situation. She went on to say that she tried working with the homeowners’ association of Bay Ridge condos but that her “good will was shut down.” She also said that Olson has four years left on his lease.
Two of the 14 complainants testified next. They spoke of having to shut their windows during hot weather to avoid the smell. One of them moved to San Diego recently and now regrets buying her condo and is considering moving away. The other has lived there since 2006 and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He said his doctor informed him that he would have to get air conditioning or move. He said he spent $11,000 to install air conditioning.
The last person to testify was Bob Kard, an officer from the air pollution control district. He urged the board to adopt the abatement, saying, “We’re not trying to shut Mike’s BBQ down; we want them to be motivated to do something. I want them to be able to function and I want the residents to be okay as well.”
"It is with heavy hearts we have been forced to close our doors..."
The board, consisting of Ruth Rodriguez, Thomas Rappolt, and Nicholas Tonner, voted unanimously to order the abatement. Rodriguez ended the meeting by urging all parties to sit down and work together, saying, “Today is a clean slate.”
The abatement was effective immediately. After the hearing, I overheard Olson expressing concerns about the cost. This might be due to a letter he received from the district in March 2016 that stated a daily $25,000 penalty would be assessed for any violations of the order of abatement.
Later that night, the windows of Mike’s BBQ were covered with butcher paper and several signs were posted on the front door, one of them thanking Clairemont for their support and another stating that they were forced to close their doors because of neighbors complaining.