Steep fines for wood-burning restaurants

A recent crackdown Montreal restaurants burn wood has some owners concerned.
Portugalia owner Jose Lopes barbecues chicken over wood. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

A recent crackdown on Montreal wood-burning restaurants has some owners concerned.

At least two owners of Portuguese barbecue chicken eateries were fined for the pungent smoke that wafts from their restaurant chimneys.

Portugalia owner Neil Lopes says he was issued nearly $53,000 in fine for air pollution caused by his wood-burning barbecue at his Rachel Street restaurant.

He says he's already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ventilation upgrades, but the city isn't satisfied with his system.

"They told me this is not what I needed. I told them, this is what you said I needed, this is what you approved. Now you're saying remove half of it, and spend another $100,000? I told them right now, I can't afford it."

The City of Montreal says inspectors have been warning owners for years about the need to install different ventilators.

City spokesman Philippe Sabourin says it's a health issue — that nine hours of barbecue time causes the same air pollution  as driving a car 18,000 kilometres.

The city has also fielded more than 50 complaints about the smell from nearby condominium owners, which irks Lopes.

"Apparently it's rich people, they buy these rich condos in the Plateau, and they don't like the smell of bagels, chicken, grilled foods. Why move to the Plateau if you don't like the atmosphere?" he asks.

Lopes says he plans to fight his fines in court in the spring.