Babies in bars?
October 1, 2012
By Jill Rothenbueler Maher
Our family was recently eating at Hector’s on Delaware and reminiscing that it was the first restaurant our daughter visited as a newborn. Partway through our meal, a newborn at a nearby table cried a little and momentarily grabbed my attention.
That baby’s small outburst made me consider the patrons of the adjoining bar. They were separated only by a half wall—how did they feel about having families nearby? Did they notice the crying and did it dampen their spirits, or irritate them? Perhaps some of the patrons were couples having a precious date night away from their own family and they were not in the mood to think about children. Maybe another patron was celebrating the end of the week and just wanted to chill out without a wailing baby in the background.
The issue of children in social establishments like bars or combination bar-restaurants has flared up on the national scene. Now that most states do not allow smoking in bars, and with so many parents away from their kids during the week, waltzing in with little ones in tow is commonplace.
Andy Heidel, a writer, bartender, and bar owner in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, wrote a 325-word manifesto expressing his opposition to parents bringing babies and young children into the local bars. He hung it on the exterior door of a bar. He has gone on to write more about the topic in the New York Times, and his objections include wide strollers that block space in a busy bar and the change in the bar’s social dynamics when kids are included.
The owner of Bay View’s Barnacle Bud’s would probably agree with Heidel. Barnacle Bud’s online children’s menu is not truly a menu, but a short version of Heidel’s manifesto. Parents expecting to see listings for chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese instead see, in a large blue font emphasized with all capital letters, “Keep your kids in tow or you’ll have to go.” In normal font and black text is the explanation, “We do not have a kid’s menu, nor do we encourage you to bring your kids. Get A Babysitter!”
(Whoops! I have taken our daughter to Barnacle Bud’s at least twice, considering its outdoor tables an appropriate dining spot with a child in tow and being unaware of their statement against kids on their website. The servers treated us kindly and I didn’t notice any askance glances from other patrons. Now that I’ve seen the no-kids declaration, I won’t take our daughter next time.)
To me, children do not belong in straight-up bars—ones with high stools that serve no entrees, but I think it’s all right to take children to restaurant plus bar venues. In the latter, bar patrons are probably not shocked to see adults with kids in tow, if they’re gone by 9pm. In that venue and timeframe, if the kids squawk, I feel that is akin to being on the beach next to someone playing a radio too loudly: It is a little distracting, but part of life.
The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at email@example.com.
Andy Heidel’s Stroller Manifesto
“What is it with people bringing their kids into bars? What, just because there’s no more smoking, it’s okay? I’m sorry, it isn’t. A bar is a place for adults to kick back and relax. How can you do that with a toddler running around or crying, getting changed on the table next to you, or being breast-fed? And is a bar really the kind of environment a child should be exposed to? I know in Europe it is commonplace, but hey — this is America, baby. Besides, bars are “21 and over.” Just because a 5-year-old obviously won’t get served, it doesn’t mean they should be in there. And don’t get me started about the strollers blocking access to the bar, seating, and the looks I get when I ask someone to move their stroller because it is obviously in the way of not only me but also everyone else. Doublewide strollers are the bane of Park Slope.
“Listen, if you’re a parent now, your child doesn’t have to be the center of everyone else’s universe too. Get a babysitter if you want to go out to a bar, or buy a bottle of wine and invite your friends over, just stop imposing your lifestyle on the rest of us in our sanctuary of choice. You made the decision to have a child and now, like a responsible adult and parent, you have to change your lifestyle as well. I’ve spoken to some courteous parents who agree with this and they get a sitter when they go out because they want some time with adults, not kids. Anyways, I’m sick of kids and strollers in bars, and so are a lot of other people. If you can’t find a sitter and have to go out with your child, for the love of god, go to a family restaurant like Two Boots or the Tea Lounge, for I declare today and all future Sundays, Stroller Free.”
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