When the smoke cleared, Rodney Lopez came out on top.
The owner of Uncle Rodney's Rib House had battled with neighbors for months regarding smoke emanating from his S MacDill Avenue restaurant.
However, the city's code enforcement board has cleared Rodney Lopez of creating a public nuisance.
The board closed the case against the Rib House after a hearing master ruled in Lopez's favor Nov. 22.
A few neighbors had complained that the Rib House's wood-burning stove produces such copious smoke and fumes that it interferes with their lives.
The restaurant opened in February at 5712 S MacDill Ave. after moving from a nearby site on W Gandy Boulevard.
In May, the county's Environmental Protection Commission recommended Lopez find a process to better disperse the smoke. He installed a filtration system and blower fan that reduced the smoke's effects.
However, in e-mails to city officials, neighbor Ed Bouchard contended that "in no way has this eliminated the problem .... There are still days that I cannot sit on my back deck, or enjoy my pool, and (I) am forced to be a prisoner in my own house."
Lopez said only a few neighbors complained about the smoke, and that while a petition objecting to the Rib House got 35 signatures at a Ballast Point Neighborhood Association meeting in June, only four came from residents in the affected area.
Rick Gershman can be reached at email@example.com or 226-3431.