Smokers welcome at city restaurant

February 21, 1997


Staff Writer

Smokers are welcome at the Silver Streak Cafe in the South End Shopping Plaza in Hagerstown.

Those who don't light up are welcome, too, but not if they want to gripe about smoking.

Joe and Peggy McElroy - he smokes, she doesn't - don't advertise the fact that smoking is permitted in their cafe.

Only a small door sign with a graphic of a lighted cigarette is posted. Ashtrays are on the tables and on the counter.


"The only ones who complain are the ones who want to make trouble," Joe McElroy said. "There are a lot of businesses owned by family members who could offer smoking on the premises, but I think most are afraid of the harassment."

The Funkstown business owners, both 50, fully comply with Maryland smoking laws.

Because the McElroys and Joe McElroy's mother are the only people employed at the restaurant - and because they are the business' sole owners - the law that makes McDonald's and other restaurants smoke-free doesn't apply at the Silver Streak.

The McElroys, who closed a similar business in Martinsburg, W.Va., before opening their new cafe almost three years ago, said they resent the state dictating how businesses can operate.

"We work 14 hours a day, pay our taxes and our bills, and the government sure doesn't ask us if the tax we pay is from smokers or nonsmokers," Joe McElroy said.

In addition, they said, they installed ceiling fans and a heavy-duty air filtering system to help alleviate problems associated from the smoke.

"There are too many other places for nonsmokers to go if they want to eat in places that must restrict smoking if that's what they want," Peggy McElroy said. "They don't have to come in here."

The year-old law is designed to protect employees from the effects of second-hand smoke in the workplace, according to Karen Napolitano of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

It is enforced under the state's Occupational Safety and Health Program. Only employees can make complaints about violations, Napolitano said.

But when a business patron protests about smoking on the premises, the state wouldn't take any action against family-owned and -operated businesses as long as the owners don't hire any employees, Napolitano said.

The McElroys said they aren't trying to promote smoking by their position and have not allowed smokers under 18 to light up in their eatery, which offers soups, sandwiches and coffee.

Gerald Eichelberger of Greencastle, Pa., is a smoker and a regular at the McElroys' place. "There's good food, and you can be comfortable and light up a cigarette," he said.

Sandy Wilgus of Hagerstown, a nonsmoker, said being around smokers doesn't bother her. "Everybody has a right to come in or stay away," she said.

Barbara Baker of Greencastle, Pa., said she has complained about the smoking allowed by the McElroys before she was told about the law.

"I think they found a loop hole," Baker said. "I can't go there anymore."

The Herald-Mail Articles