'It smells like burnt steak': Meat odour complaints from residents force closure of Longhorn Saloon in Carlton

Tom Cowie
Wood-grilled steak at Longhorn Saloon.
Wood-grilled steak at Longhorn Saloon. Photo: Supplied

Residents annoyed at the smell and smoke from grilled meat drifting through their balcony windows and ventilation have forced the closure of an inner Melbourne steakhouse.

The Longhorn Saloon in Elgin Street, Carlton, shut its doors on Friday after it was hit by an improvement notice from the City of Melbourne, which found that the smoke, food and cooking odours being emitted by the restaurant were "offensive and constituted a nuisance".

In addition to a series of complaints about the smell, a group of upset residents from a neighbouring apartment building had also objected to the council about excessive noise from the kitchen's extractor fans. 

'Meat smell' complaints close Melbourne steakhouse

Residents living near Longhorn Saloon on Elgin Street in Carlton say thick, fat-laden smoke fumes filled their apartments.

The restaurant had been given three weeks to install new ventilation systems when the initial order was given on March 22, but owner Will Balleau said meeting that timeframe was impossible. He said the cost of the work had been quoted at $100,000.

Mr Balleau, who also co-owns Le Bon Ton in Collingwood, said he had signed up to a long-term commercial lease on the property.

The bar and restaurant — with a 400-person capacity — had been operating since early 2015 and had been inspected multiple times by the council with no problems, he said. 

The Longhorn Saloon in Carlton and the apartment next door.
The Longhorn Saloon in Carlton and the apartment next door. Photo: Mathew Lynn

"I've laid off my staff, it's been a nightmare, it's been the most stressful thing I've had to deal with since I started my business," he said.

However, resident Austin Hall said the restaurant had been pumping out plumes of noxious smoke and cooking smells from its kitchen six days a week, over many hours.

He said the breeze would drive the exhaust into the building's west-facing apartments, forcing residents to leave their balconies and windows closed. 


"You can smell the steaks, the cooking fats and oil and grease that gets vaporised into the air," he said.

"They do cooking over flames, there's burning fat and the smell of BBQ ribs."

Under the legislation which covers the improvement notice, Mr Balleau is able to appeal the decision in the Magistrates Court, but he would have to close his kitchen until the matter is heard.

Co-owners of the Longhorn Saloon, Nick and Will Balleau.
Co-owners of the Longhorn Saloon, Nick and Will Balleau. Photo: Josh Robenstone

If he disobeys the order, he faces a fine of more than $93,000 and a potential criminal proceeding. 

"I don't want to have to appeal in front of a judge even though I'm convinced he or she would find this ridiculous," he said. 

He likened the issue to residents moving next door to an inner-city pub and complaining about the noise. 

A ribeye steak from Longhorn Saloon.
A ribeye steak from Longhorn Saloon. Photo: Supplied

"Cooking steaks and fries is not criminal nuisance," he said.

"As food sales comprise almost 60 per cent of Longhorn's revenue we cannot continue to trade without a kitchen. I have no choice but to close the venue, even if temporarily, as I need to comply with the no emissions order or face criminal charges."

As part of the evidence against Longhorn Saloon, Mr Hall filmed a series of videos of smoke emitting from the chimneys on top of the kitchen. Residents have also provided written logs of the impact.

Inside the Longhorn Saloon in Carlton.
Inside the Longhorn Saloon in Carlton.  Photo: Wayne Taylor

Mr Hall said residents couldn't dry their laundry outside their flat: "It gets into your clothing, furniture and upholstery," he said.

Another home owner, Tania Wilson, said she had been living in the apartment building for 10 years and there had been no issues with previous restaurants that had occupied the premises.

She said residents were unable to open up their apartment during hot days in summer. 

Smoke from the Longhorn Saloon kitchen captured on video by residents.
Smoke from the Longhorn Saloon kitchen captured on video by residents.  Photo: Supplied

"Earlier in the day, it smells like burnt wood, then later it smells like burnt steak," she said. 

"We have to close the doors, otherwise the place will literally smell like a bushfire."

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said the restaurant was first advised on March 15 about the impending improvement notice and that it had been given sufficient time to make the necessary changes.

"We will continue to work with them to ensure they are given the opportunity to improve the operation of their ventilation systems," they said.