Man claims smoke from Winston-Salem barbecue restaurant is causing health problems

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Richard Berrier only knows one way to cook barbecue.

"Lexington style, you cook on a pit with coals that creates smoke," Berrier explained. "That's how I was taught."

Berrier developed a passion for pork and opened Little Richard's in Winston-Salem 27 years ago.

He now has six locations across the Triad -- but, last week marked the first time anyone has ever complained about the smoke that billows from the original restaurant every morning.

"I really didn't know if it was a prank or not," Berrier explained.

Scott Sexton, metro columnist for the Winston Salem Journal, reached out to Berrier after getting two emails from a man who claimed to live in apartments behind the restaurant.

"He emailed us and was complaining about the smoke," Sexton recalled. "I didn't think anything of it...then another one showed up a week or so ago, same guy, Clayton Moore."

Sexton said the emails were full of complaints about the smoke being greasy from burned hogs and hush puppies, and even referenced it as "particulate matter."

"He was using all the right lingo," Sexton said.

He attempted to reach out to Moore, but unable to find anyone in Forsyth County by that name, now thinks he may have been using an alias.

Clayton Moore is the same name of the actor that played the Lone Range in the 1950s.

After doing some research, Sexton published an article in the Journal that has taken Winston-Salem by storm.

"It just keeps getting passed around the internet like a mad panic," Sexton said.

In conversations with local environmental officials, Sexton learned that industrial sources of pollution are regulated, but there isn't any type of mechanism for restaurants. Sexton said it makes sense.

"You aren't going to put your mouth over a car tail pipe and you're not going to put your head over a smoke stack."

As for Berrier, he said all he's been able to do is laugh.

"This fella that has a complaint about it, maybe he’s a vegetarian or something, and maybe I made him question that," Berrier chuckled. "I don’t know what he’s going to do now because he just had a Bojangles chicken open up beside him."

He said business has been booming. Customers have visited the establishment in droves, ready for barbecue, even making jokes about choking on smoke.

"They keep saying we should get shirts made that say 'smell the smoke," long-time waitress Chassity Carroll said. "They really love their barbecue around here and don’t want anyone to mess with it."

Berrier said his smoke is still his best advertisement and it won't be going anywhere.