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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

Barry

July 16th, 2011
1:09 am

I wish this attitude would catch on with fine dining establishments. When I am going to drop $200 – $300 for a 5 star dining experience the last thing I want is someone in the resturant with a child. Even a quit child is going to be at best a messy eater and I do not want to see, hear or smell your pet when I am eating. If I go to the diner or McDonald’s I expect to deal with children. When I go to a fine dining establishment there should be a strict no children policy. Keep your pet at home and do not inflict it on me. And by the by if your kid is under 6 it has no business on an airplane! My parents raised 2 children without inflicting us on the flying public. Others need to do the same. If it is under 6 you should have to ship it like everyone else does with their flying pets. Down below in a pet carrier not up top with me screaming and crapping and generally making a bad experience worse.

Curious

July 16th, 2011
1:33 am

Cam, you say “And not to mention this is a form of discrimination” – are you saying there is a legal prohibition against this? Is this your opinion or is it actually based on a legal requirement? Are you a lawyer? I am, and that is why I am curious about why this would be stated as a fact. There is no legal prohibition against this in Georgia, where I am licensed to practice. If you are not a lawyer, please be careful about making legal conclusions because other people may conclude they are true, when in fact they are not.

That said, I agree that it is too bad to have a blanket ban. I have no problem with well-behaved young children in restaurants – as you say, in Europe one can dine in restaurants frequented by families with well behaved young children and everyone has a pleasant experience. I love that. There is nothing better than all age groups at table enjoying a good meal and community together. The problem in the US today is that some parents do not exercise the same discipline over their children. The restaurateurs are caught in the middle – parents act as though this is some sort of discrimination issue when the same sort of behavior (screaming, kicking, running around, throwing things) would never be tolerated for an adult. I mean, really. Imagine a 40 year old having a hissy fit, slamming the table, shouting and running around the room – would we really think that rejecting that behavior for other patrons is wrong? Granted children get some leeway because of age/lack of maturity, but full scale do what you want out of control is not permissible. The expectation is that parents/adults will act as the balance to offset the child’s lack of maturity and control the behavior.

Even if some children are well-behaved, in this day and age, the business owners of the restaurants are better served with a blanket ban, which involves no judgment call, just an age cut off. That way there is no subjectivity. If they tried to have a tailored approach which might allow well-behaved children in the restaurant, but reject children who misbehave, someone litigious will sue them because their subjectivity was offensive and their feelings are hurt that their darlings were insulted. When in fact it is only the parents who are insulted because the children who misbehave are not focused on how their behavior impacts others besides their parents (because the misbehavior is directed at the parents, not the strangers who have no impact on their lives). This issue is all about the parents, which is pretty much the theme of the numerous comments on this thought provoking post.

aaa

July 16th, 2011
2:16 am

I’ve been to restaurants where the parents are having dinner with other parents and the children are seated at another table. The kids are ignored and allowed to act out, run around, chase each other, scream and just act terrible. And not a single time do you see the parents try to calm them down. So I’m all for creating separate spaces for families with children. And also for cell free zones. The second most annoying thing is trying to enjoy dinner while having to listen to another patron’s cell conversation. I’ve asked to be moved because of this reason.

Cam

July 16th, 2011
6:27 am

To Curious: I want to point out the first definition of discrimination found in the Oxford Dictionary below.

dis·crim·i·na·tion/disˌkriməˈnāSHən/Noun
1. The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, age, or sex.

That being said, I am not disagreeing with the annoyance of ill mannered children or adults for that matter. By all means all should be escorted out for disturbance. But what I am disagreeing with is the placement of a blanket ban on ALL children under a certain age. Not ALL children are little pains in the back side. It’s a sweeping statement.

I’ve been going to 5-star restaurants since I was an infant and learned proper etiquette from a very early age.

Perhaps this is more of a wake-up call to American parents. Manners start at an early and in the home. And I agree with CURIOUS that US standards of discipline over their children are placing restaurant owners in a very difficult position.

Before I conclude I do want to ask you, would you place a ban on people with special needs which can also be just as difficult? Where does the line start and stop with discrimination?

Mike

July 16th, 2011
7:32 am

@CAM
“REMEMBER: They are the next generation to fight for your freedom, pay your social security and lead your country.”

If that’s the case, these out of control, undisciplined brats are going to be the first ones shot as they run around screaming and uncontrolled on the battlefield and they will never hold a job to pay into SS. We are in deep kimchi.

Edward

July 16th, 2011
9:27 am

The problem is parents who strive to be their child’s friend instead of being their parent. Breeders (they’re not being parents, remember) let their children become the boss of the household; the children dictating where, when, how and scolding the adults for not kowtowing to their every wish. I see this sort of behavior far too frequently in public venues.

Father Murphy

July 16th, 2011
10:11 am

I will not go anywhere that bans kids.

motherjanegoose

July 16th, 2011
10:24 am

This blog was cited yesterday on the Momania blog, so I jumped over.
I have been reading Momania for years.

I am delighted that so many posters here appear to have some common sense. I work with young children all the time and adore them. It is sad, that many parents do not set behavioral expectations for their offspring and thus the problems begin.
Our two are in college but we never allowed them to romp around the restaurant or disturb other diners. Yes, children are absolutely unpredictable and this is WHY they often cannot be expected to behave appropriately, for dinner, in a fine dining establishment or perhaps eating most places at 9:00 p.m.

To me, when the kids are causing a ruckus ( sp) and the parents are in another world, it SCREAMS

” I am a selfish person and do not care about everyone else’s experience.” Sadly, there appear to be more people who adhere to this attitude today: cell phones, music blaring in cars at the stop sign, dogs who run all over the neighborhood freely, people in the 10 item or less line at the grocery store with a cart FULL of items…

N-GA

July 16th, 2011
10:38 am

It amuses me to read remarks about restaurants in Spain full of children having fun. Why? Because that is total B.S.! I lived in Europe for 7 years…3 of those years in Spain.

In the first place, adults in Spain typically eat very late when they dine out. And there are no children with them! In France you are more likely to see a dog with a customer rather than children. Exceptions? Yes, but not many.

It’s amazing how many bloggers lie with complete anonymity, pretending to have been places they’ve never even seen!

Perhaps a better rule would be to require that all diners with children under 13 must be finished and gone by 6:30 or 7:00.

N-GA

July 16th, 2011
10:38 am

Father Murphy – “You’ll be missed!”

motherjanegoose

July 16th, 2011
10:39 am

N-GA…I think your last line is a wonderful compromise.

@CAM

July 16th, 2011
12:08 pm

“children should be celebrated” – I will celebrate children that act appropriately in restaurants. Can we get over this statement? Yes, children should be celebrated – in the right places, at the right times. It doesn’t mean they should be allowed everywhere and allowed to do whatever they want.

Lal

July 16th, 2011
6:42 pm

Our kids grew up going to restaurants. As they got older, the restaurants got fancier.
It’s all in teaching them the rules and in the timing. Try not to take tired kids anywhere! From the beginning, before we went into a restaurant, we all recited the “restaurant rules” :

1) Inside voices.
2) Use the magic words (please and thank you).
3) Stay in your seat and don’t run around.

We were prepared to walk out if we had to, but it was never necessary. We had sort of the same rules for stores. Once I left a cart full of groceries (sorry, Piggly Wiggly!) because of a toddler temper tantrum. It never happened again.

Alpha23

July 16th, 2011
9:19 pm

I’m absolutely in favor of restaurants banning children! If it ain’t a fast food place, there shouldn’t be any kids there! When kids are old enough to behave, then they can go out to nicer restaurants! Or when the parents are old enough to make them behave!!

CommonSenseRules

July 16th, 2011
9:24 pm

There are sufficient enough eateries, that in certain venues, the parents’ ‘little darlings’ under a certain ‘age’(behavior?) should not accompany adult diners. Perhaps, the policy ought to be about behavior, rather than age. Some folks allow their offspring to be obnoxious, i.e. untrained puppies, for a damagingly long time… . On a daily basis I work with people over the age of majority, and their puppyhood continues to be in evidence.

Zoe

July 16th, 2011
9:33 pm

Splendid rule. Hopefully more restaurants will adopt it. The ultimate solution of course, is that parents take their jobs of child rearing serious and teach their offsprings manners. Next: cinemas!

kme

July 16th, 2011
10:42 pm

I have read the majority of feedbacks on this one…my own feeling?
1) YES, ban children who are even 10 years of age and under who have a character-control problem. I am paying huge $$$s for an expensive meal…I want it to be worth it…not having uncontrolled children running all over the place, getting into the waitstaff’s way, possibly causing a hazardeous condition for all.
2) While we are at it…if you have a LOUD cellphone ring…you do not wish to be disturbed and disturb others…PUT YOUR PHONE ON EITHER SILENT, VIBRATE OR TURN IT OFF. It is called consideration, people!
3) Hey…while we are at it…BAN SMOKING IN ALL RESTAURANTS. I do not care to eat, smell, sniff your smoke while I am enjoying my meal. Leave your cigarettes out of these establishments.

Thoth Amon

July 16th, 2011
10:47 pm

“…(the restaurant had) 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)…”

Sorry Muffin, I call BS on this. Sounds exactly like what a whiny, self-indulgent adult would say to complain about other people’s kids. Come up with something more believable next time.

Bob Waas

July 16th, 2011
11:09 pm

That is the beauty of America…it’s his restaurant and he should be able to decide what is best for all his patrons. I have 5 children and 11 grandkids and they always behave themselves when eating out. Unfortunately, some parents don’t teach their children how to act when in public.

Brother Bill

July 17th, 2011
12:07 am

Chuck E. Cheese needs to implement this policy for parents who can’t behave themselves!

Brother Bill

July 17th, 2011
12:13 am

When my children were toddlers, they were given power and responsibility. For example, my child was given the power to examine any item in the store. The catch was that the item could not go in the cart, and must be returned to its original spot. When my daughter was 2 1/2, she exercised this to look at an entire shelf of eyedrops. She asked to examine them, took them out, put them back in, and gave me a big smile. She never asked again, but she knew she could.

Huh?

July 17th, 2011
12:19 am

Wow. So much hostility. I say ban couples who can’t have children from going to out to eat. Until we invent the strap on uterus keep your opinions to yourself. Restaurants have the right to refuse service to anyone they wish, but if they said that YOU couldn’t come in I am sure the ACLU would close them down faster than you could say lube me up.

DeDe

July 17th, 2011
12:34 am

yea! it is about time. I wish more resturants would take this stand.
My parents would not take us out to a sit down, nice resturant until we
were old enough to learn how to “dine” properly. And they taught us. Great lessons. Maybe it should be a parental mandate.?

DeDe

July 17th, 2011
1:00 am

I often go out to eat by myself as my Husband works nights. I went to one “family resturant” around 4pm to avoid the “crowd”. The rather large resturant was fairly empty. I sat in a corner table away from other people, by myself with my dinner and a good book. What happens, 2 different families with 4 children each sit right next to me on either side of my table. The whole resturant was empty. Why sit next to me. Anoher case of parents who have no consideration for other people. One kid had dental work that day (they discussed it rather loudly, not pretty) so everytime he took a bite of food he had to scream and yell “it hurts, my tooth”. The rest were just as loud and disgusting. Needless to say I could not take it for long, and when one threw food at his sibling I had to leave. What a waste of money and good food.

Responsible Parent

July 17th, 2011
1:27 am

A restaraunt is a private business. The owner has a right to set whatever rules he wants & to cater to whatever clientell he wants. If his rules offend you go to another establishment. When you teach your brat to behave at Micky-D’s or Chucky Cheeze THEN bring them to a nice restaraunt, not before.

Marinemom

July 17th, 2011
3:25 am

It’s not the child’s fault that it is allowed to act out and be an annoyance to everyone. The parents are to blame. I don’t know why anyone would take a child to an expensive restaurant. But, if they do, they are obligated to keep that child under control. For the parent who said they didn’t want to have to tell their child 10 times to sit down…if you had control of your child, it would only take 1 time. But there is also another annoyance that should be squashed from every restaurant….cell phones. You know the type…talk loud so everyone one can hear the one sided conversation as if we cared. This type of noise is just as bothersome, if not more, than unruly children. No children, no phones. Put your cells on vibrate, go outside to talk and take your unruly child with you.

Queen Neffballteedi

July 17th, 2011
4:19 am

Enter your comments here

Queen Neffballteedi

July 17th, 2011
4:28 am

I was in a restaurant-bar in midtown about 10 years ago and and it was just after midnight. There was a couple with a three small children in the place. One kid was sleeping under the table, another one was crying and the third one was running around place. The parents were s#!t hammered and talking to other tables. I think they were swingers. It was kind of sad actually, getttin they swing on with kids in tow.

jj

July 17th, 2011
4:56 am

I absolutely agree! I for one am sick of having to contend with other people’s children when my husband and I go out for dinner. There are more than enough restaurants, fast food, and take out places that are geared toward children. If you don’t want to be disbursed by them, go there. On the other hand places like Red Lobster, Longhorns, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, and so on are intended for a nice quiet evening out. That does not include rowdy, ill behaved children.
I think more restaurants should be “Adults Only”.

Baltisraul

July 17th, 2011
7:42 am

Cam…..it is hard to celebrate children in public when they do everything to make you wish they were caged and gaged. Parents should also be banned if they can’t control their crumb crushers. And god forbid you tell a parent that their brat is out of control in public.

Grasshopper

July 17th, 2011
9:41 am

Kids!
I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Kids!
Who can understand anything they say?
Kids!
They a disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
While we’re on the subject:
Kids!
You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
Kids!
But they still just do what they want to do!
Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?
Kids!
I’ve tried to raise him the best I could
Kids! Kids!
Laughing, singing, dancing, grinning, morons!
And while we’re on the subject!
Kids! They are just impossible to control!
Kids! With their awful clothes and their rock an’ roll!
Why can’t they dance like we did
What’s wrong with Sammy Kaye?
What’s the matter with kids today!

Renee

July 17th, 2011
10:19 am

I do not have kids, and would welcome any good restaurant where we would not have to dine with them.

Enfielder

July 17th, 2011
10:33 am

We’re equating McDain’s Restaurant and Golf Center with Restaurant Eugene? Based on the menu and prices, McDain’s falls closer to Ruby Tuesday’s.

A friend of mine owns a restaurant in Connecticut – years ago he banned smoking voluntarily – although worried that business might suffer, it actually increased.

motherjanegoose

July 17th, 2011
3:08 pm

We have lived where smoking has been banned, in restaurants, for years. It is always surprising to visit another part of the country and to be asked, SMOKING OR NON SMOKING. We have forgotten that some places still allow smoking.

Aura

July 17th, 2011
8:22 pm

Waaaaaay too many people who have commented on this story take the “MY kids have NEVER misbehaved in a restaurant” approach, as though that means that nobody else’s kids do, either. Obnoxious children are a terrible problem and I wish more restaurants would institute this policy.

A lot of people also seem to like the “we like to eat with our children so we should be able to take them wherever we want” argument…just because you like to eat with your children doesn’t mean other people do. We made a conscientious decision not to have children ourselves, and the last thing I want, when my husband and I are trying to enjoy a meal together somewhere, is a screaming child five feet away, or one banging on the back of my chair, or throwing food that lands on OUR table. Yes, it has happened, and more than once. I’d be more than happy to never have it happen again.

1164mgc

July 17th, 2011
11:30 pm

I’ve got a kid and we never went out when she was a baby/toddler because she simply could not keep quiet. Now she is well-behaved, but I believe it should be a restaurant’s prerogative if they want to disallow children. Certainly, they’d lose MY business, but then again they’d probably gain somebody else’s. I’d also like to add that I can not STAND to hear or see unruly kids in any situation, even after having my own. But it’s not just kids. Any kind of disruptive behavior is unacceptable to me when I’m dining, and that goes for loud groups of ADULTS seated next to me as well. People yelling down a long table and/or telling jokes/getting drunk, etc. don’t realize that everyone else in the restaurant can hear them too… and don’t want to! Add kids into the mix and it’s a disaster.

Baltisraul

July 18th, 2011
7:18 am

When you tell your children to be quiet in public, is that not the end of the problem? It was when I was growing up. It was when I told any of my 3 daughters NO. When a parent says quiet or NO, you only have to say it once. What is the big deal? Parenting is not easy. But keeping children under control in public is easy.

Sandra

July 18th, 2011
10:16 am

I was at the Cheesecake Factory Friday at Cumberland. Some kid was screaming at the top of its lungs. I asked the waitress where the kid was….in the back somewhere. You’d think the parents would of letf or the management done something. I got a headache listening to it.

Debbie

July 19th, 2011
4:59 pm

Vintage Pizzeria in Chamblee should be modeled around the country – one side of the restaurant is reserved for patrons 18 and over. Every time we go there, no matter if the other side is not crowded with families, we make a beeline for the adult side. We used to have smoking/non-smoking sections. Why can’t we have kid/no-kid sections? While I love the concept, I don’t believe kids should be allowed at white-table restaurants, ever. If you can afford to eat there, you can afford a babysitter. Junior doesn’t have to be attached to you 24/7.

LizR

July 20th, 2011
3:05 pm

I absolutely agree that children who are not well-behaved should not be taken to nicer places. And I wouldn’t take a small toddler most places. I also don’t have a problem with a place banning kids under a certain age. That is their business decision. However, my husband and I take our almost five-year-old to some nicer places and she behaves. We think hard about whether or not it is appropriate, we go early, and we dress up. I used to go to nice places with my parents and never acted up. I loved it. I remember so many servers being astonished that I would order the lobster!