December 6, 2006--Posted at 6:00 p.m. CST
JONESBORO, AR--Smokers can once again light up at a Jonesboro restaurant. Over the summer restaurants across Region 8 put out the cigarettes and went smokeless with the passage of the "Arkansas Clean Indoor Act."
This morning a vintage Jonesboro restaurant reopened with a new name and a unique feature...a smoking section. For over 50 years the Milky Way Restaurant has served up some of the best burgers and shakes in Northeast Arkansas.
"This has always been our home our second home," said regular customer Alice Wheeler.
Sunday though the Milky Way closed for good. Re-opening Monday under the new name The Smoker's Cafe. Same restaurant, but with a twist.
"It's a good place to come, they have good food, good people and you get a choice here too," said regular customer James Bray.
The choice, to smoke while in the restaurant. While they have only offered this feature one day business has been steady.
"We have had people come in today from Walnut Ridge, Caraway, and Hoxie," said Smoker's Cafe owner Clem Morgan.
For the next 30 days the smoker's cafe is offering a special. You buy a meal, and dessert is on them. One free cigarette and the right to choose whether you smoke in their restaurant.
"This isn't a moral issue, this is a choice. People that want to smoke ought to have a place where they come and smoke, enjoy their coffee instead of having to go outside in ten degree weather," said Bray.
Bray is a regular customer who embraces the Cafe's decision. Unlike most customers though, he doesn't smoke and feels the power to choose is what makes this country a democracy.
Currently the Smoker's Cafe is one of just four restaurants in Arkansas that allows smoking, but with 35 percent of adult Arkansans that smoke, it probably won't be the last.
"They need more places like this, because people do smoke and they should have a choice to do it," said Wheeler.
Ultimately the success of The Smoker's Cafe will be determined by the number of butts in the seats and in the ashtrays.