Is ‘Children Welcome’ Really Such A Good Idea?

BabiesInABar

“Children under 21 welcome until 8:00PM”

It’s a sign you see often these days, at more and more bars around the Puget Sound (sometimes it’s 9:00PM, but the basic idea is the same).  It means, while visiting many local pubs, taverns and breweries, you’ll often see teenagers, young kids and even babies around as you enjoy your drink(s).  What prompted this change, and is it really such a good idea?

I first started seeing these signs pop up in a few pubs/taverns I frequent about two years ago.  One of the places I know, Big Time Brewery in Seattle’s University district, installed a ‘railing’ around the bar area just to facilitate this rule (children under 21 must remain outside the railing that indicates the ‘bar’ area at all times – even before 8:00PM).  Now, it seems even more places are adopting this rule, including places like The Yard Cafe in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood.

I believe the reasons behind this change are twofold.  First: one argument against having children and especially babies in bars used to be the smoky environment.  It just wasn’t considered a good idea to allow children in a place where so many people were smoking.  However, since Seattle’s ban on smoking went into effect a few years ago, this is no longer a concern for parents for whom this was an issue.

The second reason we’re seeing more places allow children, I believe, is the economy.  Many pubs, taverns and breweries/brewpubs serve at least some food.  Their logic (especially for places like Big Time, where the under-21  college crowd is a big part of the population in the area), is that they could pull in more food revenue if they allowed those under 21 in until 8:00PM or 9:00PM.  That may be so, but is it worth the annoyance to patrons who are over 21 or the message we’re sending the younger generation?

Before going any further with this, I’d like to clarify something.  I’m talking specifically about pubs, taverns and breweries/brewpubs where the bar area is not a distinctly separate area from the ‘dining room’ area of the establishment; and I’m not counting the railing some bars have a few feet back from the bar as a ‘separate area’.  I have no problem at all with parents who want to bring their kids to places that are primarily restaurants, but also happen to have a bar: places like Red Robin, Jimmy Mac’s, The Ram Restaurant & Brewery or even Pike Brewing Company (which has its bar area(s) completely separated from the main ‘dining room’ area).

There is also a trend building in this country to no longer allow children in some restaurants.  A few establishments around the country have discovered that refusing to serve children is not considered discrimination, and they have received enough requests/complaints from their patrons about unruly kids, screaming babies, etc. to warrant a ban on children in their establishment.  I definitely don’t think all restaurants  should go this route, but for some establishments, or ones where it’s clear the parents who bring in children have no idea how to watch or control them, it is something to consider.

If He Won't Behave - Don't Bring Him

If He Won’t Behave – Don’t Bring Him

When I was a young boy, I went to many restaurants with my family, just as we’ve all done.  The main difference I see between back then and today is that, back then, if I started to misbehave at all, I’d either get smacked and/or be taken outside by one of my parents until I could calm down and behave myself or we would have to leave.  Far, far too often today that is definitely not the case.  I see and hear kids in restaurants/pubs/taverns/etc. that whine endlessly, throw things, scream at the top of their lungs, run around the table (and other people’s tables), while the parents completely ignore them and just carry on with their meal, drink or conversation as if they’re oblivious to the child’s behavior.  I’m sorry, but this is not OK.  If you want to take your kids out to a restaurant, learn how to control/discipline them first and don’t let them scream, run around bothering other people, etc.  It’s not acceptable.

I’ll be honest here.  One reason I’m against having kids in bars is that I don’t want to have to deal with kids running around, running into me (which has indeed happened to me on several occasions) or babies screaming in my ear while I’m trying to relax and enjoy a drink at a type of establishment that was, for decades, ‘adults only’. Nobody wants a piercing screech in their ear while they’re trying to relax and unwind after a long, hard day.  And, I’m sorry, but no.  I will not watch my fucking mouth just because you decided to bring your goddamn kids to the bar.

Not What You Want To Hear When You're Trying To Relax

Not What You Want To Hear When You’re Trying To Relax

Another thing for parents to consider is the message they’re sending to their kids.  A great deal of what children learn in this World is learned by example from their parents.  If parents get into the habit of bringing their kids to bars a lot, the kids will learn that is where you go/what you do when you want to hang out with friends.  Many of them will learn this lesson quite well, and likely won’t wait until they’re 21 to start enjoying some drinks with some friends; since it’s what they see their parents doing to relax and have fun.  In addition, how wise is it to bring your kids/babies to the bar with you, have two, three four or more drinks and then drive home with the kids in the car?  Granted, these are personal decisions best left to the parents, but I just don’t see the wisdom in ‘conditioning’ your kids to be that comfortable in bars at such a young age nor in driving with them in the car after you’ve been drinking.

Why is it suddenly OK to bring kids into bars now that there’s no more smoking?  What about the drinking?  That’s off-limits for kids too, yet we’re now pushing it in their faces with this new rule where kids can hang out until 8:00PM watching everyone else drink, listening to them swear, etc.  Again, kids learn by example.  What are you teaching them by bringing them to/hanging out in bars with them all the time?

Some of you may be wondering, so I’ll just tell you.  No.  I don’t have kids.  My wife and I tried (and spent thousands on fertility treatments) but, sadly, it just wasn’t in the cards for us.  Even if I did have kids, however, I believe my views on this issue would be exactly the same.  I would make sure my children were well behaved whenever I brought them to a restaurant, and I would absolutely not bring my kids along if I was going to a pub, tavern or brewery with no division between the bar and the rest of the establishment.  If I wanted to patronize such an establishment, I would get a babysitter.

My views on this issue may be unpopular, but I’m not alone in thinking this way.  I’ve talked to quite a few others who feel the same way & wish more craft beer bars/pubs/taverns would ban kids.  In fact, I know of several establishments in Seattle that will never allow kids.  Neither Brouwer’s Cafe nor their ‘sister’ pub, Burgundian allow kids and never will.  Some other craft beer establishments in and around Seattle that do not allow kids include: The Pine Box, Beveridge Place Pub, The Dog & Pony Alehouse (Renton), Duck Island Alehouse, Über Tavern, Latona Pub, and many, many more, including many local craft breweries.  Some of these places do not allow children by choice, but for many it’s out of necessity/law, since there is no separation whatsoever between the bar area and the rest of the establishment.

Part of drinking responsibly involves considering what example we set.  By bringing children into the bars, we’re just increasing their exposure to an environment where they really shouldn’t be until they’re of legal drinking age and thereby increasing the chances that they might start drinking at an earlier age, by following their parent’s example.  Again, this is a choice best left to the parents, but in my opinion, it’s not the best example to set.  Also, as discussed above, far too many parents today are extremely inconsiderate of others and allow their kids to run around, scream, and generally annoy other patrons without doing anything about it.  If you can’t control your kids, don’t bring your kids.  It’s that simple.  So the next time you’re packing the kids in the car to head for the bar, consider what message you’re sending them, and also consider how their presence might affect not only them but everyone else around you.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

(Updated and republished from my old (and now defunct) blog at http://beermonger.blogspot.com/.)
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14 thoughts on “Is ‘Children Welcome’ Really Such A Good Idea?

  1. As a father to be, I appreciate that I will be able to go to The Yard or similar places to relax with a beer or 2 without having to plan to get a babysitter or take turns with my wife(who also loves beer)..

    I will definitely miss going to Brouwers/Uber/Pinebox any day I want.

    I think its good to have choices, and if you really don’t like to deal with kids, then don’t go to those places before 8pm, go to the other 50 great places that don’t have them.. I would really hate to limit my choices to Red Robin type of places, just so that you can maybe be more comfortable.

    As for kids being in that kind of environment, I really don’t think there’s anything shameful going on at places like The Yard any given day.. just people relaxing and having a beer or two.. I would agree not taking them to more extreme places, like an irish bar at 11pm Friday or Saturday..

    I do agree that parents should be responsible for their kids and not let them be crying or running around. I hope those people don’t ruin the fun for the rest of us.

    I say just relax and let everyone have some fun

  2. I don’t have a problem with well-behaved kids but 9 times out of 10, in my experience, the parents aren’t disciplining their kids and seem to expect the bar/restaurant to be their babysitter. Or they just ignore their *screaming* baby as if they don’t even hear it.

    Bars that allow dogs ask the patron to leave if the dog won’t stop barking. IMO, the same should be true of babies that won’t stop screaming or kids that won’t stop running around tables, bumping into other patrons, etc.

    I know this can be a controversial topic. There really is no easy answer.

  3. Bravo! Well written. I have a 4 year old son so I know all about this subject. Some places aren’t meant for minors, period. If you want dinner and some pints there are plenty of family friendly establishments in Seattle and beyond. We go to the Ram at Northgate or Elliot Bay Brewing on Lake City Way.
    And yes, plenty of parents I see just ignore their child’s behavior (or lack thereof) at the expense of all around. That’s just lame and rude. Luckily my son is pretty mellow and we don’t have that problem when going out. We I want want a beer and meal by myself of just with the wife, we always go to 21 up places. Cooper’s Alehouse, Nobel Fir, Burgundian, Pine Box, The House Sports Pub…etc.
    All young kids/babies should be home in bed by 8:00pm, not hanging at bars! 🙂

  4. Definitely a hot button topic and you address most if not all of the salient points. There’s one I need to respond to. And before I do, yes, I have a toddler and he’s been accompanying my wife and I to brewpubs since he was weeks old.

    You wrote: “A great deal of what children learn in this World is learned by example from their parents. If parents get into the habit of bringing their kids to bars a lot, the kids will learn that is where you go/what you do when you want to hang out with friends. Many of them will learn this lesson quite well, and likely won’t wait until they’re 21 to start enjoying some drinks with some friends; since it’s what they see their parents doing to relax and have fun. In addition, how wise is it to bring your kids/babies to the bar with you, have two, three four or more drinks and then drive home with the kids in the car? Granted, these are personal decisions best left to the parents, but I just don’t see the wisdom in ‘conditioning’ your kids to be that comfortable in bars at such a young age nor in driving with them in the car after you’ve been drinking.”

    I say, Why is what’s good for the goose not good for the gander? We don’t live in the Old West where saloons are dens of thieves, whores, gamblers and murderers. Bars and pubs ARE exactly places we go to hang out with friends. That’s not conditioning; that’s what they’re for. By preventing them from experiencing the goings on of a brewpub, we’re telling them it’s a mysterious and forbidden place. That would make minors want to go there even more. News flash: minors drink alcohol illegally. Part of the reason is because it’s forbidden. If kids are raised in an environment where it’s casual, they may not be induced to experiment with drinking/binge drinking. Did I try beer and alcohol before I turned 21? Like most American kids the answer is yes. But I never had a fake ID so I never hung out in brewpubs. If a kid obtains a fake ID, they’re not going to head to the brewpub their mom and dad go to!

    Ultimately, 100% of the responsibility for any minor in a brewpub or tavern lies with the parents, not the wait staff. So don’t blame the establishment for bad kids. But the flipside is, if there are kids present, why let your kneejerk reaction be to dislike the business? I rarely observe kids behaving badly in brewpubs because the type of parent it attracts is, IMO, quite different than the kind that go to those TGIFridays/Red Robin types. And while I feel my kid is already growing up too fast, I’m in no hurry but I’m looking forward to walking through the doors of one on his 21st birthday and sitting down at the bar with him. Because that’s what brewpubs mean to our family.

  5. Guess like everyone without kids believes I will add going out for a pint to the long list of things I need too give up be a “good parent.” Doesn’t matter that this is how all of Europe operates, this is America goddamnit and you should always think of everyone else’s opinion of your parenting decisions before you just try to make your overly stressed out life better or more manageable. Thanks for your opinion but like most parenting advice I receive from others, I refuse to lock myself away in a protective bouncy house of toddler hood and just wait till my kid goes to college before I get to experience the good things in life like a good craft beer.

  6. We have three kids in which we love more than anything in the world. We also love delicious, well-crafted beer. We’ve enjoyed beer/beer culture since waaaay before our kids joined us. For us, it’s not about getting drunk, acting like asses and ignoring our children, it’s about drinking a good beer, paired with some tasty food while hanging out with the people we love. I’m sorry you have encountered so many horrible children and parents that have led you to judge the rest of us so harshly. Anyway, been to Trappists Westvleteren and Westmalle breweries in Belgium, both in which welcome families (Westmalle even has an awesome play structure, where the kids can play while their parents watch and sip a tasty world renowned beer). Europe has much less puritanical attitudes than our beloved USA, which I thoroughly appreciate while traveling with the kids. Unfortunately, we can’t always swing five flights to Europe so we take lots of roads trips across the states. We love travelling, exploring new places and exposing our kids to the world around them. We’re excited to visit The Pacific North West this summer and hopefully, in our travels, we’ll be able to find some spots where we can break bread, soak up some local culture, enjoy life and even drink a tasty beer with out being judged by the likes of someone like You. I’m sorry that kids weren’t in your cards, but I don’t think you have fully come to terms with this yet because if you have, you might not harbor such disdain toward parents and their spawn. Enjoy your beer, and your exclusive watering holes, but I’m pretty sure all the beer in the world won’t fill that angry hole of yours.

    • destefanogirl – Disdain? No. Angry? No. Where have I displayed here “disdain towards parents and their spawn”? I haven’t. When/where have I said that I harbor anger over this issue? I haven’t.

      I’ve laid out my points clearly and made it quite clear that the issues I referred to are from parents who don’t discipline their children properly:

      “far too many parents today are extremely inconsiderate of others and allow their kids to run around, scream, and generally annoy other patrons without doing anything about it.”

      If you don’t allow your kids to act that way, then this does not apply to you. Understand? I think it is you who have disdain for me, because I suggest you leave your kids at home when you head to the bars.

  7. craftbeermonger- So, I read through your posts again and what I’m reading between the lines is disdain and anger toward parents and their children. That’s just my opinion. In your defense, if what you are saying is true, that 9 out of 10 times in your experience, parents aren’t disciplining their kids and expect bar/restaurants to be their babysitter, then I am sorry, that is an alarming percentage. Sounds like a bad parenting epidemic.

    • “what I’m reading between the lines”

      I think that’s the problem. Please don’t read between the lines. I’m very plain about what I say and I don’t exaggerate. The 9 out of 10 figure is completely accurate – which is probably what has helped form my attitude on this issue.

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