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Childrearing

Restaurant Sparks Outrage By Banning Kids Under 5, But More Places Should Do That

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Restaurant Sparks Outrage By Banning Kids Under 5  But More Places Should Do That no kids photo jpgThere are few issues in the world right now that seem to be as contentious as the issue of small children in restaurants. On the one hand, some assert that small children are people and should not be discriminated against, especially if the discrimination is just because of a handful of jerks who let their toddlers run amok and scream at a fancy place. On the other hand, others say that they are paying a lot of money for peace and quiet and if a restaurant would throw out an adult for screaming and throwing stuff, the restaurant should totally throw out a kid for doing the same thing.

Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. I have a toddler, and I realize that there are a lot of different parents and toddlers in the world. A kid who quietly sits and colors at a table is no skin off my nose, even if the restaurant charges $10,000 a head. (I have never been to a restaurant that charges $10,000 a head, but I assume that at that price point I’d be so drunk on top-shelf Champagne I wouldn’t notice if an elephant were sitting next to me, let alone a toddler.) If a kid starts to make those squeaky warning grunts that presage an utter meltdown, that’s when a parent should be ready to grab the kid and bolt for the door, leaving a generous tip in his or her wake. But there do seem to be a lot of parents who are not controlling their children, and that’s not OK to the restaurant, staff, or other customers.

One restaurant in Rome recently sparked an immense amount of outrage by officially banning all children under the age of 5 from the premises. The restaurant even put a sign in the door that could not be more explicit:

 No screaming babies. No strollers. No car seats.

“Due to some unpleasant incidents caused by a lack of manners,” it reads, according to Grub Street, “children under 5 are not allowed in this restaurant.”

“They run slalom among the tables,” owner Marco Magliozzi told La Repubblica. “They throw olive oil on the floor, they upturn the water, they send the salt [cellar] flying across the room, they try to dismantle the furniture, they shout, they cry and above all, they hate fish.”

It sounds like Magliozzi has had more than his share of terribly unruly toddlers running amok in his restaurants, and those kids’ parents are to blame for spoiling it for the rest of us. But personally, I wish more restaurants would just explicitly ban children if they aren’t welcome. I hate having to guess whether or not it’s OK to take a small child to a restaurant. Plenty of pretty high-end places are welcoming to small children and even have high chairs and friendly wait staff who are just desperate for some little cheeks to pinch, and even some divey, diner-esque restaurants are livid at the idea of a tot coming in to pick at some pancakes.

I always ask if it’s OK to bring the baby, but I’m never sure if they actually mean it when they say “yes” or if they’re just telling me what they think I want to hear. I sit with a clear path to the door and am ready with so many toys, snacks, and distractions that I might as well be a carnival clown. It’s not relaxing at all for me, but oh well, that’s just life. So far it’s always gone pretty well and I haven’t had a toddler meltdown at a restaurant, but I’m sure one is coming and I live in terror of that day.

If more restaurants would just say outright that kids were or were not welcome, it would be much easier for everyone to make dining choices. Those customers who want to not be near children could go to the places that ban kids. Those who are toting toddlers could go to the places that say, “children welcome!” No one would have to guess, and it would be easier for everyone. And I’d welcome the chance to go to one of those “no kids” restaurants if I ever managed to get a babysitter. It might be nice to relax and be able to use grown-up words once in a while.

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