Year-round hog heaven

Restaurant: Daniels on U.S. 1 in Elkridge is a place where bikers and their families can gather - in any weather and even on holidays.

April 21, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Feel free to come to Daniels Restaurant on Christmas, New Year's or Easter. Drive your biggest hog, wear your baddest leather jacket, rev your motor as loud as you can. Order a beer, wander out front and drink it, which could land you in jail in any other part of the county but is perfectly legal at Daniels.

But, whatever you do, don't curse.

"If they do it once, I'll warn them. They do it twice, and they're out the door," said the restaurant's co-owner, Daniel Daniels.

Daniels, on U.S. 1 in Elkridge, is the only restaurant with an outdoor liquor license in Howard County.

The licenses are outlawed under current legislation, all patrons drinking outside must stay within enclosed areas, but Daniels was able to keep its license thanks to a grandfather clause.

The bar has to be open every day of the year.

That means the Daniels family, most of whom live within walking distance of the business, have to open during snowstorms, floods and even Easter, when most bikers stay home.

"I'm sure there are people who are going to church," said Wayne Lembach as he sipped a cup of coffee at Daniels' outdoor bar yesterday. "Personally, I'd rather go riding. That's my religion."

According to legend, Daniels used to be the home of a farmer who would sit on his front porch with his neighbors, drinking moonshine. The place eventually became a restaurant and bar and was taken over by the Daniels family 28 years ago.

Daniels is instantly recognizable, especially in suburban Howard County, where you're more likely to hear the hum of a Lexus sport utility vehicle than the roar of a Harley-Davidson.

On warm days, the air along U.S. 1 is filled with the growls of engines in the midmorning as bikers pull into Daniels to chat and plan their day's ride. Most return in the late afternoon and have a few drinks before going home.

On weekends, the bar can be filled to overflowing, but the crowds were thinner yesterday. Only a handful of diehard riders were hanging around the bar yesterday morning, sipping sodas and coffee while waiting to see who would show up for one of the group's rides, which can easily go for 100 miles.

Most said they could ride by themselves, but would rather wait for more people.

"You can have as much fun riding by yourself as you can with other people, but when you get to where you're going, who are you going to talk to?" asked Lembach.

Even though most of the bikers were forced to go on short solo trips, about 40 gathered yesterday afternoon before heading home.

Lembach, who has a goatee and was sporting sunglasses, enjoys the bar's reputation as a rough-and-tumble joint. Motorists honk their horns, occasionally throw empty soda cans or even park across the street to gawk and take pictures.

"Sure, people see all of us and assume it's a scary place, but there's never been a problem here," Lembach said.

And while there are typical bar signs on the inside - "Please do not breathe while I'm smoking," reads one - the Danielses try to provide a family environment.

Bikers aren't allowed to wear patches that signify which, if any, motorcycle gang they belong to. They regularly warn each other not to curse, fearing the wrath of "Ms. Em," Emily Daniels, the family matriarch who lives above the bar and has been known to escort burly bikers with salty language out the door. And despite the hard-liquor aura of their helmets and leather, light beer is the drink of choice for most and some even avoid that.

"I learned a long time ago that beer and Harleys don't mix," said Tony Green, 63, an Arbutus resident who has been coming to the bar for nearly 40 years, as he drank a diet soda.

The family makes the best of keeping their 365-day schedule. On most major holidays, the family provides a free buffet for customers.

Many say they are comfortable bringing their families to the bar. Ted McGallagher and his wife, Cathy, come to the bar every major holiday with their son, aptly named Ryder, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Catonsville Middle School.

"We don't have family here so we could come here because we felt comfortable," said Ted McGallagher.

The family has been riding together almost every weekend since Ryder was a few months old and the boy plans on getting a motorcycle the first minute he can. When asked if he wants to drive a car, Ryder crinkled his nose.

"That's not as important as a motorcycle," he said.

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