Banning children in restaurants

To ban or not to ban, that is the question…

Should a cafe or restaurant be able to ban children?

What? What’s going on? No yummy food? If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that it’s not all meals and recipes, but the occasional bit of serious chat, from sustainability to my post on Huntington’s Disease and eating. This is another one – something I felt compelled to write about after I came across it mainly because it’s such a talking point and has caused so much upset. I can genuinely see both sides of the argument and am intrigued to know what everyone else thinks.

Imagine this – an independent cafe opens up in a town, offering snacks, lunches, drinks and coffees, welcoming one and all from couples to friends to families. It becomes a firm favourite with some, less so for others, but enjoys a busy trade from all sorts of people – pensioners looking for a coffee, office workers on a quick lunch, mums meeting up with their little ones in tow.

And then one day something changes. When parents arrive with their sprogs they’re told that children are no longer allowed. The reason given is “licensing laws” and they’re told that unfortunately they can’t bring them in.

Banning children in restaurants

Cue uproar and plenty of angry people. Some are angry because their fave meeting place is suddenly off-limits. For some it seems they’re more annoyed by the mixed messages, whether it be the age under which children can’t come in, or the reason why their offspring are suddenly unwelcome, a kind of: ‘at least tell us the truth’ attitude. And then, also, there’s the small minority who choose to take the argument to the end of the line – that it’s ultimately about equality. We’re all equal so we all have a right to go in and if you ban children, where do you stop?

It’s not the first time this issue has arisen. Last year, Lobster Pound and Moore in Cape Breton Island, Canada, sparked controversy when it banned children. La Fraschetta del Pesce, in Rome’s Pigneto district, has also banned children under five.  And the issue’s even been aired by outspoken Janet Street-Porter who is, or was at least late last year, in favour of banning kids from cafes and restaurants.

So who’s right and who’s wrong?

I don’t blimin’ know, but I reckon it’s worth looking into because it’s pretty darn interesting.

Now personally, I don’t have children and to be honest, if I’ve nipped out of work for a quiet coffee with a friend, or my mum’s come to meet me for a spot of lunch, the last thing I want is a screaming child next to me.

I’m not saying that’s fair. I’m not saying it means kids should be banned from cafes and pubs everywhere. It just means that personally I don’t mind if there’s a place that I can guarantee is adults-only. I’ve been on adults-only holidays (not THOSE kind, just the ones where kids don’t go), adults-only hotels, restaurants where children aren’t allowed after a certain time in the evening. They’re havens for people who don’t necessarily want to socialise with babies, toddlers and cute little kids whose interest in Peppa Pig trumps that of the Panama Papers.

Should children be banned from restaurants?

That’s my preference, but I accept that not everyone feels like me. And as a ‘woman of childbearing age’ who has plenty of friends with cute little sproglets and all the trials and tribulations they bring (yeah, yeah, I know they bring plenty of happiness too), I can imagine that it must be pretty annoying if you find somewhere you can take your kids, meet with your pals, have a family day out and then suddenly you’re no longer welcome.

I also get that it must be even more aggravating to feel that perhaps you’re not being told the truth about why that’s suddenly become the case. Nobody likes to feel like someone’s hiding the real reason for a decision. So is that the issue?

I’m no expert on licensing laws so maybe it is the case that they’re behind the decision to no longer allow kids. Maybe it’s a completely bona fide reason and the owners are as upset at the loss of the little people as some of their customers are. Or maybe it is an excuse, a smoke-screen hiding another reason for banning children. And part of me thinks, so what if it is?

After all, restaurants and cafes aren’t publicly-owned enterprises (not in this context anyway). They’re privately-run businesses – they’re entitled to choose which customers they want to prioritise over others. Maybe the owners of this cafe reckon it will benefit their business more to bar kids. Maybe they’ve decided that their target audience is people who want to go somewhere that’s tailored to adults. You get kid’s cafes, so why can’t you have adults ones? After all,  you could argue that in most towns you’ve got plenty enough cafes and kid-friendly zones that it probably doesn’t matter if one doesn’t allow children.

“But hey”, call the voices, “where do you stop? Are you saying that a business owner could ban someone who’s gay, black, old, or disabled, because ‘that’s their prerogative’?” No, I’m not. But once you start asking those kind of questions, it makes me think twice about how you can say it’s okay to ban children but not anyone else who doesn’t happen to fit in with the kind of clientele you want. Is it any different?

So that leaves me not being sure what I think (as is the case with so many things). Personally, I don’t mind if there’s somewhere for people like me – you know, the grumpy non-maternal types – to go and have a coffee and a waffle (of both types – lolz) without the noise and chaos (and yeah yeah, I know, ‘fun’) that children bring. But just because it appeals to me, I’m more than aware that that doesn’t mean it’s right, or fair, or what everyone else wants.

I don’t know what the answer is – legally, morally, or in business terms for an eaterie or drinkerie. But when a subject sparks such heated discussion, and keeps coming back, I reckon it’s one to be looked at.

So come on, what do you think?

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