Douglas County OKs permit for specialty meat shop

Douglas County commissioners have approved a permit for a specialty meat shop despite opposition from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and others.

Commissioners approved the conditional use permit this week for Lawrence chef Brian Strecker, who said his new shop – called The Burning Barrel – would process locally raised livestock into hams, sausages and other cuts of meat.

Several residents said they worried the shop would pose fire, odor and health hazards. Kobach, who owns a structure near where Strecker’s shop would be, said he didn’t want his children to grow up downwind from the shop. He raised doubts that the business would be able to abide by all the rules and regulations set forth by governing bodies.

Strecker objected to critics who have called the venture an “industrial” operation. He said his 640-square-foot shop, which would employ a maximum of four people, would process no more than four hogs a week.

“The unwillingness for people to understand this concept kind of baffles me,” he said.

Others who spoke in favor of the shop vouched for Strecker’s work ethic and professional skills.

After more than three hours of public comment, commissioners reached their unanimous decision in a matter of minutes. Commissioner Nancy Thellman called the potential detriment to neighboring properties by Strecker’s business “overblown.”

“It is a relatively tiny business we’re talking about,” she said. “It’s a small, small enterprise when it comes to meat processing, and I understand the fearfulness of change, but I am not convinced this is going to create a litany of woes for everyone in the neighborhood.”

After the meeting, Strecker said he was pleased with the commission’s decision and was looking forward to working to change the minds of those who opposed his venture.