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Florida Barbecues Aren't Banned After All


"Had to record!"

After a viral video surfaced last week that caught a Pinellas County employee alerting a group of people that the smell and smoke of their cooking had resulted in a neighbor's complaint, the fate of barbecue in Florida was lamented by many.

The video, which amassed more than four million views on Facebook, captured a Pinellas County Air Quality environmental specialist alerting a group of people that he is responding to a complaint from a neighbor that the smoke and smell of their barbecue has crossed their property line — much to the objections of those filming the video.

Video of pinellas county environmentalist saying bbq smoke out of your yard is illegal!Had to record!

Posted by Scotty Jordan on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The video doesn't appear to show the unidentified employee issuing any sort of citation or ticket — although he does say in the video that he has given the property owners his contact information — but still the video sparked an upload to YouTube under the heading "BBQ outlaws" by a user named "Gov TookMyRights."

The video, originally uploaded to Facebook by Scotty Jordan, said the environmental specialist told them that emitting barbecue smoke from their backyard was illegal.

"Had to record!" Jordan posted.

In the video, the men cooking out tried to argue that other neighbors are able to barbecue without county employees showing up on their property, but the environmentalist said if he had received any complaints about those gatherings, he would have addressed the situation in the same manner.

The men cooking admitted that police officers and firefighters had been called to their house multiple times in the past in regards to their barbecues, supposedly at the request of the same female neighbor, but they've always let them be. The specialist said he was able to see smoke from the property from down the street and took some photos. The man also said he could smell the barbecue, but could smell it while on the property, which was okay.

"There is a rule in play here, and that basically what you're doing looks like it may be in counter to the rule as far as...," the specialist said before he was cut off.

Tim Closterman, communications director for Pinellas County, told TheBlaze in an interview that the environmental specialist was simply responding to a complaint from a neighbor — the 15th complaint the county's Air Quality office had received about that particular property owner since September 2014. Closterman said that the city had received numerous complaints as well.

"Pinellas County Air Quality has regulatory responsibility countywide and is obligated to respond to citizens’ complaints," read a statement from the county that was provided to TheBlaze. "It is important to note that the county was not there to regulate barbecue grilling. A complaint was received about objectionable smoke and odor and an environmental specialist investigated the situation. The county has not issued any citations and there is no ordinance banning residential backyard barbecuing."

Closterman also said that the property owner had been issued a citation from the city of St. Petersburg in the past for operating a commercial for the possession of commercial grilling equipment in a residential area.

According to county's website, commercial barbecue cookers can cause a "nuisance odor."

"If a sufficient number of complaints, representing different households, are reported and an Inspector witnesses the problem, they can issue a Warning Letter," the website proclaims.

"Our employee went out and investigated," Closterman explained. "We don't ban backyard barbecues, and we don't have an ordinance about backyard barbecues, and we don't issue citations."

Closterman said the county employees try to help dispute between neighbors over things such as grilling smoke so as they can all get along.

"If one neighbor is complaining about excessive smoke from a barbecue grill and it's continuous ... environmental specialists go out," he said.

The property owner was given a warning letter, however, that Closterman explained simply gives the property owner tips on how to help curtail smoke emitting from a grill. 

Closterman did say that the Air Quality department did learn a lesson from the viral video — those employees will start conducting official business in uniform just like employees who work in other departments such as animal control.

Jordan did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze, but some on social were quick to come to his defense, even falsely decrying citations and tickets.

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