Dear Salty: I’m the proud new parent of a bouncing baby boy. I’m also a longtime fan of a craft beer gastropub in my neighborhood. Recently, my wife and I packed up the diaper bag and put Junior in the baby carrier to head out to our favorite restaurant, where we noticed a new (and in my opinion, rude) sign: “No children after 5 p.m.” After querying the hostess, we were informed that this was indeed the new house policy.
Salty, I honestly feel like I helped put this place on the map. I went there when no one else did, before it became the popular crowded neighborhood spot it is now. To have this establishment reject my child seems like a slap in the face, and I’m thinking about boycotting it outright. Or am I overreacting? What’s my recourse here?
Oh, the crushing realization of a new parent that not everyone is as enamored of your perfect cherub as you are. Get used to it, bub. No doubt your kid is adorable, but you’re about to entire years of being shuffled off to the less-desirable tables (what we in the trade call “Siberia”) at your favorite restaurant, if they let you in there at all.
Your gastropub isn’t alone. More and more restaurants are saying no to kids. A craft beer bar and pizzeria in Tampa Bay, which sounds a lot like your regular hangout, posted a sign a few months ago that said “No children,” calling their younger patrons “a liability and safety issue.” The owner said that he feared for children with inattentive parents, as his place has an outside patio near a busy road. Naturally, though, his declaration was met with the same indignation that you sport in your letter. A German restaurant recently banned kids after 5 p.m. for an even simpler reason: to create “an oasis of peace.”
Your recourse when faced with such an establishment? I’m afraid there isn’t much. Like the sign at my diner says, “Management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone,” and that includes your adorable tot. Or any tot.
So here’s my advice: Try not to take this personally. That new sign is not a slight against your child as much as it is a policy decision, possibly related to safety and/or noise levels. At least your gastropub is still offering you the chance for a lunch out.
And, as Auntie Salty to a number of rugrats, I get it. I know for my frequently harried and exhausted sister, an evening out for dinner is at least as valuable for just leaving the house, and not having to cook or clean up after dinner, as it is about that delicious meal and that glass (maybe three) of wine with dinner. A lot of restaurants get that, and they will be happy to accommodate you and your young family. In fact, many places I frequent have bolstered their bottom line by catering straight to families with kids, instead of the opposite. My diner is family-friendly (sure sign: kids’ menu with many crayons), which I try to appreciate even when some whippersnapper flings a fistful of mashed potatoes at my beehive. Think of a tropical family resort versus an all-inclusive adults-only resort. Wouldn’t you rather be in paradise sans kids?
So yes, I think you’re overreacting. But just as it is in within the right of that restaurant to not host kids after 5 p.m., it is in within your rights as a consumer not to go there anymore. But if you really enjoy that place, here’s what I suggest: Reserve a date night with your wife and get to know your favorite new person next to your baby—your babysitter.
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