Noe Valley Voice May 1999

Hahn's Hibachi's Neighbors Are Breathing Easier

By Mark Robinson

Hahn's Hibachi serves pork chops, barbecued pork, and something called the "Pile o' Pork." But neighbors of the the Korean barbecue on Castro Street say the restaurant's menu is missing one essential porcine item: a working "Smog Hog."

That's a device that keeps the smoke and barbecue aroma from escaping through the restaurant's ventilation system and irritating nearby residents. Last month, the city's Planning Commission threatened to revoke Hahn's Hibachi's operating permit if the so-called "odor mitigating device" wasn't up and running.

The permit was granted last year on the condition that the restaurant install the Smog Hog.

Hahn's owner, David Bass, let a maintenance contract on the device lapse because of nonpayment, according to zoning administrator Robert Passmore. Neighbors like Lawrence Kulig of Jersey Street quickly alerted Passmore to the sudden increase in the smell of barbecued pork and soy sauce.

"We don't have any issue with the restaurant except that we want them to operate responsibly," Kulig said. "Mr. Bass doesn't seem to understand how people suffer with this. The kind of food they make produces a heavy odor that just permeates everything."

During an April 15 hearing before the Planning Commission, Bass promised to restore the Smog Hog's contract and to make sure that the exhaust from the restaurant was minimized. The commissioners decided not to revoke the operating permit.

"The long and short of it is we're in compliance," Bass said. "We prevailed at the hearing, and we're going on from there."

Residents say the problem has abated-- for now.

"All of a sudden it cleared up," said Lorraine Sherrill, who lives on 26th Street and has spearheaded the opposition to the odors since the restaurant opened in 1996. "There's only been one faint whiff since the hearing. He should have done this a long time ago."

Sherrill, who is president this year of the residents' group Friends of Noe Valley, said that she and her neighbors will be sniffing around for any signs that the Smog Hog isn't doing its job. "If it gets worse, Passmore is going to get calls," she said. "But now that [Bass] has taken care of this, maybe we can get off his back."