City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Banning kids in restaurants?

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Earlier this week WTAE, a Pittsburgh ABC affiliate, reported about a local restaurant’s new ban on children under the age of 6. Mike Vuick, the owner of McDain’s Restaurant and Golf Center in Monroeville, PA, reached the end of his rope with uncontrolled children in his restaurant and instituted the policy after receiving many complaints from his other patrons. The story was quickly picked up by the national media, including Time and The Wall Street Journal.

Though McDain’s has predictably been on the business end of quite a few outraged parents, it seems that even more folks are applauding the decision. According to the online survey on WTAE’s website, 64% are in favor of the ban and according to The Journal, Vuick saw a 20% uptick in receipts following the announcement.

Having not yet reproduced myself, perhaps it is easier for me to join the masses in smiling at the story. Perhaps once I’ve passed my genes on to the next generation, that empathy switch in the back of my head will flip, and a screaming, uncontrolled child in an age-inappropriate place won’t bother me. Perhaps.

I just got a puppy, so I’m going to make a canine analogy here. A trained dog is a free dog. You can’t let your pup run off-leash until you know that it will come to you when called.

The same goes for parents, kids, and restaurants. I don’t agree that there should be a sweeping ban on kids in a restaurant, but until your little bundle of joy is mature enough to go off-leash, maybe the best strategy is to stick to restaurants where a little ruckus and an temper tantrum or two would go unnoticed.

While many will make the airplane argument here, and I’m just as much a fan of sitting next to a screaming infant in coach as the next guy, that is a completely different scenario than dining out. Little Johnny doesn’t need to join Mom and Dad for a four-star meal just so he can make it to Boise for Christmas with the family.

Which side are you on? The “hire a babysitter” camp or the “I can take my kid anywhere” crowd?

-By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

90 comments Add your comment


July 15th, 2011
5:30 am

I couldn’t agree more. There are literally countless restaurants that cater to adults with children. From Pizza Hut to Ippolito’s, folks have a broad selection of establishments where children are welcomed. Even at that, adults will bring their children to self-serve buffet-style restaurants and ignore their offspring as they drag ladles from one serving tray to another, dropping mashed potatoes into the green beans.

There are just too many people who are inconsiderate of others, so restaurants need to take action. Do you want to have an (expensive) anniversary dinner at Bacchanalia or Restaurant Eugene only to have a screaming child spoil your evening when you chose to pay a sitter to watch your own children?

Marietta Mary

July 15th, 2011
5:51 am

I’m on both sides of the fence here, but if you know your child has a very short attention span, and hasn’t yet learned the finer points of quiet play (crayons and coloring books, e.g.), then fork over the money for a sitter. Everyone, including you, will be happier. I had friends who took their young daughter everywhere. Thankfully, she knew restaurant etiquette, but most kids don’t.

Jim R

July 15th, 2011
6:31 am

Keep the kids, ban the parents who can’t/won’t control their offspring.


July 15th, 2011
6:59 am


Smoke free and child free should be official seating designations in every restaurant!


July 15th, 2011
7:02 am

While we’re at it, let’s turn off those cell phones too.

Jai Mack

July 15th, 2011
7:14 am

Unfortunately, those parents with kids who are out of control do not know or realize that the unruly behavior does not have to be tolerated by others. If enough establishments have rules restricting kids under a certain age or have kid only zones with long waits, perhaps these parents will get the picture that others do not want to deal with someone else’s kids and the out of control behavior. Then they can practice time out at home.

jack bauer

July 15th, 2011
7:15 am

Leave them at home. In fact, the parents of these misbehaved kids need to stay home too!


July 15th, 2011
7:17 am

This happened for two reasons: 1) Rude and inconsiderate parents of unruly children, 2) restaurant staff and managers who did not have the testosterone level to confront the parents.
It is the restaurant owners to set the rules but I really wish he would not throw “the baby out with the bath water”, so to speak.


July 15th, 2011
7:25 am

Sign of the times…rude and inconsiderate parents raise rude and inconsiderate children.


July 15th, 2011
7:32 am

They had only just taken our order – the kids were acting up – we left – no dinner that night. Never happened again.


July 15th, 2011
7:45 am

I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one, and I think if a restaurant wants to impose age restrictions, they should be allowed to do so. If you don’t like, you don’t have to go there and spend your money to support it. It’s really as simple as that.


July 15th, 2011
7:50 am

The scream of an out-of-control child sends chills down my spine – and their indulgent self-absorbed parents make me see red. My daughter learned to use her “inside” voice in public, including restaurants. The sad thing is that parents of these screaming brats see restaurant bans as infringing on their rights but it’s really a comment on their lack of parenting.


July 15th, 2011
7:54 am

PARENTS: Unless you are at Chucky Cheese, if your kid is screaming, banging, running around, STOP THEM IMMEDIATELY. It is not cute and we should not have to put up with that garbage. If I started behaving like your precious child, the police would be called. I don’t care how “put upon” this makes you feel. The establishment is not your kids’ playground and you are ruining our meal.

RESTAURANT OWNERS: When the noise or activity level gets to the point that you would ask an adult to leave, do the same for children.

P.S. Thanks to the few and far between mature parents that are responsible and take their colicky child outside or make their children behave appropriately.


July 15th, 2011
7:54 am

Hurrah!!! Finally someone is coming to his/her senses. Nothing is much more irritating than trying to eat while an unruly child is screaming and banging on the table or china with a spoon while the parents ignore the child. They don’t seem to know there is an option to take the child outside or just stay home. The same goes for cell phones or LINK phones. Is anyone interested in hearing another’s conversation? Can these people not do without a cell phone for maybe one hour. We live in such a rude, inconsiderate society that it has become necessary to impose these rules. If you are so important that you can’t live without your cell phone for one hour or discipline your brat, JUST STAY HOME!


July 15th, 2011
8:01 am

Spare the ROD and Spoil the Child!!

carla roqs

July 15th, 2011
8:06 am

i agree with the restaurant, crying kids in public places drive me crazy. even at chucky cheese, waiting on a friend’s niece’s birthday party– i saw an unsupervised kid playing at the salad bar. i was glad i’d already bought mine and i did not go anywhere near where the child had been. saw the article on the yogurt samples given out at the store. may have to stay away from samples as well. some people are just nasty.


July 15th, 2011
8:14 am

Wow – I thought I’d be in the minority here but looks like I’m NOT :) I’m all for an age requirement at appropriate restaurants.

Typical family restos (the TGI’s and Ruby’s and the like) shouldn’t have any age restriction for children. That should be MY responsibility to know that if I were to go to one of those, I might have to deal with kids. But restos like (for example) Eugene, ONE, Floataway, 4th and Swift, etc., should be able to stipulate a certain age limit for children.

And as for the parents who say “why should I not be able to go out just because I have a kid – why should I not have fun” I have two things to say to you … 1 – having a small child means your life is not yours for the next few years and you should just accept that and look to the future, and 2 – get a sitter. How much could it cost for a couple of hours?

I love children. I have a niece and nephew that I would lay down in front of a train for. But I would never agree to go out with them somewhere nice and adult-ish. They’re good kids, but they do have moments of wacky-dom. And, kids don’t belong everywhere adults do.

“but until your little bundle of joy is mature enough to go off-leash, maybe the best strategy is to stick to restaurants where a little ruckus and an temper tantrum or two would go unnoticed.” – unfortunately, Jon, this decision can’t be made by most parents. :)


July 15th, 2011
8:15 am

I see no issue with a restaurant putting this in place. I would likely frequent it more often, if the occasion arose for something of that nature. Don’t like the policy? Don’t go. My parents would have yanked me out of a restaurant so fast if I even *thought* about getting up from the table without their permission. If parents (the general “parents”, I know it’s not all of them) can’t control their kids, they should stick to McD’s.

Theron Sapp

July 15th, 2011
8:15 am

Obviously, infants and toddlers do not belong at Bacchanalia. But the restaurant in Pennsylvania is attached to a golf driving range. Polite children should be welcomed, and impolite ones should be escorted out with their impolite parents. But that takes more guts, and more work, on the part of the restaurant than just saying no.


July 15th, 2011
8:16 am

It’s sad that a restaurant would have to go to such measures. My son wasn’t one to behave well in restaurants when he was under 2 years old, so we just simply didn’t take him very many places. When he did start to scream or act out, one of us would take him outside until he calmed down. We never took him to any “white table cloth” restaurants, as I agree that really nice places are no place for small kids. Why parents let their kids scream and bother others is a mystery to me, but I guess not everyone is very considerate of others.


July 15th, 2011
8:39 am

I guess I’m old school. When I grew up, (50s and 60s) we three kids practiced going out to eat at home under the strict supervision of my mother. The very idea of acting up at a restaurant was squashed before it ever occurred. Hell, we couldn’t even put our elbows on the table.

Hungry Gringo

July 15th, 2011
8:41 am

Keep the kids OTP. Simple.


July 15th, 2011
8:42 am

I see a lot of comments that parents should take their kids to places like McDonald’s if they cannot behave and avoid high end restaurants.. I could not disagree more. It’s still not acceptable for your child to be a screaming nuisance in the restaurant and ruin someone else’s outing (that excludes their separated playlands of course). That trip to Micky D’s can be the same financial outlay to one as a night at a high end restaurant is to another. Be considerate.


July 15th, 2011
9:01 am

I bring my kids to restaurants frequently ( age 4 and 2). We go at earlier times when restaurant not busy and often use outside seating when appropriate. Empire South and Miller Union are good examples. I have never had any complaints, in fact almost every time people comment on how well are kids behave. But, I see the other side of the screaming kid at other tables. I would not take my kids if they acted like that.

up north

July 15th, 2011
9:03 am

Yes, this is a matter of parental discipline with children. I was just in a restaurant last night, where one small child disrupted an entire dining area-climbing back and forth, over and under booths, while hooping and hollering. This kid was even over the top of the table with a parent on each side of the booth with their food in front of them. I know you cannot do this nowadays; but, when I was young and misbehaving, I was put out to the car, or even left at home, while the rest of my family ate! Maybe a previous post was correct-the parents should be made to stay home, too!


July 15th, 2011
9:07 am

I could see this coming years ago. If I had a dollar for everytime I’ve seen unruly kids have temper tantrums and run crazy in a restaurant while their parents sat totally oblivious to it, my student loans would be paid in full. Like Kirk, I guess I’m old-school as well. When I was a kid, I couldn’t get within hailing distance of a white-cloth caliber restaurant until my parents were absolutely sure that I could handle it. It was trips to McD’s and Burger King and being strictly supervised when been there until I could step foot in a buffet, let alone a quiet, sit-down restaurant. No elbows on the table, no chewing with your mouth wide open, and you can forget about crying, speaking loudly or out of turn. If you did any of that, even at McDs, there were consequences and repercussions the instant you got home. That was how a kid learned restaurant etiquette back then; there were no ‘Johnny, stop it, Johnny sit down, Johnny, don’t throw your soda at the waiter, Johnny, you’ll get another plate, just stop crying’ stuff going on. Restaurant owners didn’t have to come up with age restrictions back then because the kids who walked into those places with their parents knew better; you either acted like you had some sense or you paid the price for it. End of discussion.

I just don’t understand folks who have small children yet want to go out as if they don’t have any kids. Here’s a newsflash; once you have a child, let alone a litter of small ones, your days of going to Ray’s on the River are OVER unless you can afford a sitter. If you can’t afford one, stay at home with the little rugrats, take them to places that better suit young kids and skip the trip to the Sundial. Sit at the table with them and teach them how to act when they are eating. That way, they’ll know how to when they’re in a public place…


July 15th, 2011
9:09 am

A few rambling points that echo previous posts:

When I was a kid my parents were on me like white on rice when I even remotely acted up at a restaurant. Of course, back then a trip to a restaurant was a treat and not an everyday occurrence like it is today. However, there is no excuse for a parent not properly monitoring their children in a public place – if you don’t teach your kids proper public behavior, no one will.

There have been more than once I have actually asked for the “No Children” section when being seated at a restaurant. I usually get quizzical looks by the waitrons doing the seating. There are just some times after a long, hard day at work that I would like to have a quiet, relaxing dinner with the spouse. These are the times I welcome a No Children section, or a No Children policy.

I would also like to have a No Cellphones section as well. If an adult can’t observe proper restaurant etiquette, how can we expect children to?

Finally, these are privately owned businesses. It is up to the business owner to decide who they will or won’t serve (within our current legal limits). To my knowledge, it is not against the law to discriminate against children – so if a restaurant doesn’t want to cater to children it is well within their right to refuse children.

Buckhead dude

July 15th, 2011
9:27 am

that is why I love the VORTEX! keep your screaming, misbehaving children out! I did a girl with a kid and she would walk around the restaurant starring at people, etc, and of course the gf never said a word to her.. I was thinking “your kid is walking around uncontrolled.. what the crap!” This wasn’t a fancy restaurant, but a Mexican place off of Buford Hwy.. the lesson, keep your kids at home if the are still at that age of spontaneous brattiness.

Ramona Clef

July 15th, 2011
9:31 am

Not an opinion, just a data point: I visited Montreal a few years ago. Dined out each night for five nights, at some great places. Not once did we see a child under (about) twelve in a restaurant. I conclude it’s a cultural thing?


July 15th, 2011
9:56 am

@Mike — I see your point… but most McD’s have a playground. You can’t expect kids not to run around screaming and laughing if there is a playground… That’s what I was getting at.


July 15th, 2011
10:45 am

The high point of my restaurant career, ever, was when after a mother was repeateadly (myself, manager’s self, another waiter, both hostesses) asked to please keep her child at the table, as he kept wandering in front of the blind spot by the kitchen door, I came flying out of the kitchen with six plates of linguine in seafood sauce stacked up my arms, slammed right into him, and unloaded all six plates directly on his head. To my great joy, the manager refused to pay for the family’s meal, on the grounds that they had been repeatedly asked to NOT allow that behavior. Of course, that was in the early 90’s, because now the mother would have sued me, the restaurant, the maker of the plates, and probably Atlanta Fixture for good measure.


July 15th, 2011
10:45 am

@Dejay – “Here’s a newsflash; once you have a child, let alone a litter of small ones, your days of going to Ray’s on the River are OVER unless you can afford a sitter. If you can’t afford one, stay at home with the little rugrats, take them to places that better suit young kids … ”

SAY IT AGAIN! I couldn’t agree more (as stated above)

Christi J

July 15th, 2011
11:18 am

I’m glad to see an article of this nature garnering attention – and support. I’ve found myself – especially within the past year – flummoxed by the amount of UNRULY children in what I’d consider “adult” restaurants. I emphasize unruly because, as a child who enjoyed finer foods than chicken fingers, I have zero issue with children in a restaurant who are well mannered.

That having been said, parents in Atlanta (yes, I’m generalizing here) seem to have issues with the concept of raising a child to have manners and be mindful/considerate of others. You have a right to bring your family to dinner. I have a right to enjoy MY dinner in peace. If you can control your children, then let’s break hipster bread in a trendy spot. If not – please take your circus to a more apropos locale.

For instance, I love Willy’s. I love the Willy’s on Howell Mill Road. They have a bar, plenty of room, a good patio, and trivia. I no longer patronize this location, however. There is a large group of parents who frequent the restaurant that let their children run absolutely amok. Through the restaurant, on the patio, to and fro the drink machine incessantly. BEYOND the fact that it’s simply rude and annoying as he**, it’s NOT SAFE. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen almost obliterate a child coming around a corner (or be tripped up by one, for that matter.)

One night, I’d finally had enough. I went up to the manager and asked if he could do/say something. I was told that they couldn’t do/say ANYTHING. Hello? It’s your restaurant, and if patrons are being disruptive, let alone unsafe, you are absolutely allowed to politely address the problem. I suppose they consider them “valuable” in terms of money spent, but I can tell you they’ve lost customers from it as well.


July 15th, 2011
11:30 am

Put it this way. I am 40 years old and my mother can STILL give me “the look” and I know to shut it up–quickly. Fortunately I learned this at an early age and passed it on to my own at an early, early age. I have given many kids who are not mine “the look” and if many parents would just discipline their kids and not be embarrassed to do so, we’d all live in a much happier place. That being said, I totally agree with the ban. Not every restaurant is going to be “family friendly” and that’s okay. There are plenty that are. But if I’m shelling out a good amount of “change” for a fabulous dinner, the last thing I want to hear is “Stewie” chanting “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, adnauseum…..” Just sayin….

Conscientious Parent

July 15th, 2011
11:39 am

My wife and I try and consider others before ourselves. That’s why when we take our kids out, we go to places that are accommodating to families with kids. Mexican Restaurants, certain Pizza places, etc.

I too would be pissed if I went to Bachanalia(sp?) or another nice restaurant, only to have someone else not leave there children with a sitter.

Parents please use common sense. Not everyone thinks your child is as great as you do, and people are not entertained by their antics.

General public: I challenge you to confront,(in a loving and gracious manner), these parents. If these people are oblivious to their children’s behavior, or their lack of parenting skills, how will they know if they need to make changes?


July 15th, 2011
11:47 am

As others have noted, kids and parents today are not as disciplined as back in the day.

When my parents and my 7-year old self would go out to dinner at a wonderful old restaurant, my dad would order a lobster and a martini, my mom would order a lobster and a Manhattan, and I’d order a lobster and a Shirley Temple. I modeled my behavior on my parents’ behavior, and I would never have dreamed of making loud noises or getting out of my chair and running around.

I suspect there are families today that resemble what I described, although I would imagine that nowadays they’re out eating sushi, Korean barbecue, Ethiopian or whatever, rather than what we ate back in the day. But the vast majority today are not like that, and I don’t want to share my dining with them.

Mar -Atl Foodie

July 15th, 2011
12:03 pm

Children in most restaurants drive me crazy. They talk too loud and jump around, while their parents look the other way. Some mgrs have told me they feel that they can’t say too much to the parents because they might lose business. That is when I let them know they have lost mine. If you can afford to go out, you can afford a sitter. Other people don’t think your rug-rat is cute when they are acting badly. I always ask for the non-children section.


July 15th, 2011
12:08 pm

I have a 4 year old daughter and I would be an idiot to take her to a nice restaurant. Don’t get me wrong she’s a good kid but at that age anything can happen at anytime. Plus why would the kid enjoy someplace they can’t let loose. Get a sitter fools.


July 15th, 2011
1:26 pm

Leave the brats home. Period. They shouldn’t be on planes either – especially babies. Ugh!

Mar -Atl Foodie

July 15th, 2011
1:34 pm

[...] Food & More blogger Jon Watson wrote today about a restaurant in Pennsylvania that has banned children under 6 years old. The owner of [...]


July 15th, 2011
4:17 pm

I used to frequent a restaurant in Chamblee that had two sides to the restaurant: one was a family friendly, child run amok side with food all over the floor and crap flying everywhere (and lots of pissed off servers that weren’t allowed to say squat). the other side of the restaurant/bar was all 18 and up. no kids allowed! access to a patio with a tv’s! it was a great concept.


July 15th, 2011
5:44 pm

When it comes to sit-down restaurants, something I’ve found that’s generally true: if there are lots of kids there, it’s likely the case the food isn’t very good and it’s not some place I’d enjoy anyway. It seems parents with little kids tend to go to restaurants known more for being inexpensive than being good.


July 15th, 2011
6:09 pm

I love my kids. I do. Truely. But when my husband and I have saved up to go to a nice meal out, we leave our kids AT HOME. I don’t want to have to tell my very active six year old to sit down ten times in a meal, much less have everyone else hear me request it. Some days are better than others and I know if I am to enjoy myself in an adult environment, I leave my babies at please, please, do the same for me. That night out might be the only one we get this year. If I’m not going to let my kids ruin your night, why can’t people be conciderate enough to not ruin mine? So yeah, if there were two restaurants of compairable food and expense and environment and one allowed children and one didn’t…well, I know my preferance.


July 15th, 2011
6:26 pm

Kids should be seen not heard. True then, true now!! How tough is to controll your kids in public???? Unbelieveable, parents let their kids embarrass them in public.


July 15th, 2011
6:28 pm

I wonder if the demise of good restaurant manners on the part of today’s kids has any relation to the demise of the sit-down family dinner at home. I suspect many of these kids rarely experience what many of us of a certain age experienced every evening….the family sitting as a unit around the table sharing a meal and a bit of conversation. These kids more than likely are scheduled for some activity every waking moment and meals are caught on the fly. Can’t learn to sit still if you never have the opportunity to sit still.


July 15th, 2011
6:42 pm

Speaking as a dad of three, I’m totally in favor of this. I love it the same way I love the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin throwing out people with cell phones: absolutely.

When I did take the two oldest to fast food places with playgrounds, their ability to go out and use them was always entirely contingent on their eating, and behaving, first. Parents who let their kids run and play and then try and get them to calm down and eat? Dimwits, the lot of ‘em.


July 15th, 2011
8:32 pm

Have any of you ever travelled to countries like Spain and Italy? There children are in every sort of restaurant – chic or not, playing and having a good time, not screaming. It makes the place come to life. These restaurants that you suggest for families are disgusting, dirty, generic and the food is appalling. Why should children have to be subjected to that if parents prefer to introduce proper food and etiquette into their child’s life? I think you are doing a big disservice in a child’s up bringing by placing a blanket ban. Children should be celebrated, not placed in a closet because a few childless people can’t stand them. REMEMBER: They are the next generation to fight for your freedom, pay your social security and lead your country.
And not to mention this is a form of discrimination. So where does it end?


July 15th, 2011
9:23 pm

I love this rule! And, I have a toddler. It sounds like it is actually a rule for parents, not the kids. We go out to eat very often and if he has had enough, we box up our dinner and go home, or one parent walks around with him outside while the other finishes. I can’t stand it when the kids are brought to a restaurant where they clearly don’t belong, and then are scolded for misbehaving. Parents just don’t understand sometimes.


July 16th, 2011
12:34 am

Funny, kids are always annoying when they are someone else’s. I mean our kids never make noise are cause a disturbance – right? When I was a kid my Father worked in the restaurant business and he took us to eat in some of Atlanta’s nicer restaurants, but before hand we were read the riot act and did not dare act up. I say let kids in, but if they cause a problem ask them to leave. It seems pretty simply parents have to take personal responsibility.