Kids are Off the Menu!September 20, 2011
There’s been some talk in the news lately regarding children and restaurants. A few eateries are banning parents from bringing kids under a certain age to their establishments, presumably because their customers have complained about the noise and such. The owner of McDain’s Restaurant and Golf Center, a small restaurant outside Pittsburgh, is banning children under the age of 6. Earlier this year, former “Top Chef” contestant Dale Levitsky refused to allow children under age 12 into his Chicago restaurant for weekend brunches, and last year the owner of a North Carolina restaurant put a sign on the front door stating that screaming children would not be tolerated.
We can see this issue from both sides very easily, being that we once had no children and now we do; and both sides make good points. For those of you not following these stories, it’s not places like Chili’s or other large national chains that are banning kids, but it’s not uber-fancy fine dining places either. McDain’s is a casual place, serving steak, seafood, ribs, burgers, etc. Olde Salty’s, the North Carolina restaurant that has banned screaming kids, is a casual seafood joint with sandwiches, chicken, etc. Levitsky’s restaurant Sprout would not be appropriate for kids for dinner, but brunch would certainly be ok; but the menu specifically states that it’s for ages 12 and over.
If high-end, fine dining places were to ban kids, it wouldn’t be an issue because parents wouldn’t take their kids to those kinds of places anyway. But these are casual places that would normally be appropriate for small children. So why the ban? McDain’s owner says, “We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers.” And the owner of Olde Salty’s says, “We want to attract the type of people that come in knowing they aren’t going to have to sit behind a table with a bunch of screaming children.”
Again, we can see both sides of this. Yes, screaming kids can be particularly annoying, especially for those who are not parents or for parents who are trying to have a meal away from the kids. But many parents are able to have some control over their kids – not all kids behave badly in restaurants. Perfectly pleasant toddlers do exist, occasionally. So is it discriminatory for restaurants to ban them? Not legally – there is no law against banning children from a privately owned restaurant (though it is illegal to ban senior citizens). Some might argue that enforcing such a ban would end up hurting a restaurant’s business and in turn help out their competitors. But then again, maybe if people knew about the ban, they would be more inclined to go there knowing they would not be bothered by screaming kids.
I think in the end, restaurants should not be deciding which kinds of people can eat there. It has the potential to open up a can of worms – what if a racist restaurant owner starts turning non-white families away on the pretense that they don’t allow kids? Responsibility lies with the parents; if your kid is screaming and disturbing the other customers, leave until the screaming stops. I do think the restaurant has the right to ask a parent to take a kid out if the other patrons are being bothered; but banning them from even entering the building seems mean and curmudgeonly. All this talk makes this place seem even more cutting edge!
What do you think??