CAMBRIDGE (CBS) — A local restaurant is being forced to turn off their wood fired grill after neighbors complained the smoke was hurting their health.

“Everybody has sensitivities, but this is a city,” said Shepard Resturant co-owner Rene Becker.

The restaurant said they will now have to change the way they cook and called the Cambridge Health Department’s decision unfair.

Wood Fired Grill at Shepard Restaurant (Photo Courtesy of Shepard Restaurant)

The Cambridge eatery is just off Mass Ave. with a residential neighborhood next to it. It is well known for cooking many of its dishes over wood and charcoal fires.

Becker said fired up cooking method “imparts a delicious flavor to the food.”

Keren Schlomy, the attorney representing the neighbors, argued, “They really haven’t been able to open their windows for 2 years.”

Half a dozen neighbors have complained that smoke from those fires is causing health problems.

“Neighbors have experienced problems ranging from inability to breath freely, rashes, eye irritation,” said Schlomy.

Rene Becker, co-owner of Shepard Restaurant (WBZ-TV)

But Becker said he’s done everything he can to limit the smoke, even spending $100,000 to install a scrubber on the roof to reduce emissions.

“I empathize with them and that’s why we tried so hard to really make the situation better,” he said.

Health officials siding with neighbors found “the smoke and odors have caused a condition of nuisance which is injurious to the public health.”

Schlomy added, “It doesn’t matter how much money they spend.  If they’re causing the health nuisance then it has to stop.”

Shepard Restaurant (WBZ-TV)

Restaurant owners are now deciding whether to appeal the city’s order.

“It’s not fair at all.  It’s just mind-boggling to me,” Becker said.

In the meantime, they’re cooking with gas, and said they’ll continue to serve delicious food.

Comments (7)
  1. Ellen Golla says:

    What’s “not fair” is being forced to live with dangerous levels air pollution from a restaurant burning solid fuels next to one’s home. I am very glad to see that the Commissioner of Public Health has made a fair and just decision that will protect the public health of that neighborhood.

  2. Serving delicious good cooked by gas is the best possible outcome. Wood smoke contains toxic chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) many of which are known human carcinogens. Just as the people living nearby don’t want to breathe air filled with known human carcinogens, who wants to eat food that’s covered in toxic cancer-causing chemicals?

  3. Breathing is not a choice. Restaurants can choose cleaner fuels to cook with. No one should be involuntarily exposed to the carcinogens and toxic particulates of wood smoke.

  4. Bill Lewin says:

    “It’s not fair at all. It’s just mind-boggling to me,” Becker said.” What a sad statement to make after causing others health problems for their profits . And its mind-boggling these people had to put up with it for so long before the wood burning was shut down, sad the Heath Dept had to step in to do what the restaurant wouldn’t even after knowing they were causing others health problems.

  5. Particulate Matter from smoke is one of the most insidious pollutants. These particles are smaller than the width of human hair, and have barbs on the end so once they are inhaled, they get stuck in the lungs as an irritant forever. Smoke has been linked to brain damage, cardio-vascular disease as well as cancer. Let them go out into the country to cook their food or figure a way to cook without smoking out the neighbors. I agree that breathing is not optional.

  6. Mike Simpson says:

    My neighbors can burn all the wood they want, as long as they keep their smoke off my property.

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