Should you bring kids to fancy restaurants?

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"Maybe Don't Bring Your Baby to a 3-Star Restaurant," Jezebel writer Kate Dries suggests in response to a kerfuffle over a Chicago couple bringing their 8-month-old to the ultra exclusive restaurant Alinea because their babysitter cancelled.

The restaurant requires future patrons to buy $530 tickets to reserve a table for two in advance, and per Alinea's website, tickets are non-refundable, though they are transferable.

These parents were obviously in a tough spot, and I can see both sides of the issue on this one: the parents didn't want to lose a ton of money, and the patrons did not want a crying baby interrupting their expensive meal. So I'm not here to rehash the debate about whether parents should take their children out to certain spaces: we've heard endlessly about whether babies should be on planes or in bars or at concerts.

No matter how many Internet commenters argue about this topic, people are going to continue to bring their children into places that other people wish were adult-only spaces. Instead of continuing to argue, why don't we agree on some behavioural protocols for establishments, parents and non-parents alike?

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Protocol for upscale establishments:

If you really don't want kids at your restaurant, then have a policy stating that children are not allowed. This seems like an OK thing to do if you've got Michelin stars and way less OK if you're a neighbourhood pizza joint, where yelling children come with the package. What not to do as a restaurant owner: post a pissy, passive-aggressive tweet after patrons leave, as Alinea owner Grant Achatz did:

 

 

That's just bad manners - publicly shaming the couple instead of fixing the situation as it's happening. If you allow children at your fancy restaurant, but they are disturbing other customers, it should be acceptable for waiters or hosts to ask parents, politely, to take their children outside until they calm down.

Protocol for parents:

If your baby is crying or fussing loudly at a nice establishment, feel appropriately mortified and take him somewhere until he stops. It's on you to bring iPads, soft toys, etc, to entertain your child so that he doesn't disturb others. Yes, I know that children aren't supposed to look at screens at all until they're two, but you're the one taking your kid to a $250-plus per-person dinner.

Rules must be bent. Do not get all offended if restaurant staff or other patrons ask you (nicely!) to quiet down. Understand that your kid is being annoying, and take appropriate steps to shut it down.

Protocol for non-parents:

If a baby is ruining your time, you can politely ask parents to keep the noise down. But also understand that sometimes parents of young children might not be being jerks on purpose; they may be so broken down and used to the hubbub that it doesn't occur to them that it's completely annoying everyone else.

For example, we were at a resort for Christmas vacation with my husband's extended family. We took our one-year-old daughter to a casual, outdoor lunch spot next to a pool, and we gave her plastic stacking cups to play with so she wouldn't fuss.

We're so inured to the annoying banging sound the cups make that we didn't realise that the sound would irritate other patrons. The table next to us kindly asked us to give our daughter a different toy, and we did immediately, and apologised. We felt terrible about bothering them in the first place.

Of course there will be jerks on all sides: non-parents who are nasty to parents, parents who think their little angels should be allowed to do whatever they want, restaurant owners who will take your money and then trash you on social media. But for the rest of us, just a little communication and understanding can go a long way.

- Slate

 

78 comments

  • I live in a unit block. What do you do when new parents insist on walking their new baby up and down the common areas of the building when it's crying/screaming to settle it. This unfortunately means the baby cries and screams right outside my own windows and door.

    I realise I have no right to make a complaint when the baby's screaming wakes me in the middle of the night when they are inside their own unit. It's a baby, and I understand babies aren't always quiet, and I dare not make a complaint about the noise when they are in their own unit.

    But do I have a right to say anything when they walk up and down the common areas of the block?

    Seeking the opinion of others.

    Commenter
    Melissa
    Date and time
    January 20, 2014, 9:16AM
    • I don't think so. Those are common areas, so everyone can use them. It would be one thing if people were being deliberately noisy, having a wild party or something, but parents don't have much of a choice about their baby crying, so complaining won't achieve anything (except maybe make them feel ashamed enough to isolate themselves in their flat - which I'm sure is the last thing new parents need).

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 1:37PM
    • Would you complain say if it was say loud music or a dog incessantly barking? Then YES, say something, tell them to take the kid for a drive in their car or a walk down the STREET or something......that's why I hate flats!

      Commenter
      shemp
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 1:42PM
    • here you go: its a unit block. If you seek serenity I gently suggest you purchase a house on a large block. I intend on doing so at some point for the exact reasons you state. until then, I'll acknowledge that my fellow humans are raising their family given their budgetary constraints. if excessive, ear plugs are quite cheap.

      At one stage I lived on the eastern suburbs in a very exclusive enclave. it was choc-a-block full of dinks. never seem so much frowny hard workers whose status seemed not to bring them joy. got out of there quick-smart.

      Commenter
      Confused
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 1:54PM
    • If it's just in the garden or other common area, I think you will have to put up with it, but if it's right outside your window all the time, then I would say something, politely of course,

      Just my two cents worth. Hope this helps!

      Commenter
      Hannah
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 3:06PM
    • Yes, you absolutely have a right to complain, and expect that complaint to be acted upon by the Strata committee.

      Take the "baby" (and emotion) out of the equation - if a neighbour took phone calls at 2am in the morning and walked up and down the common area doing so, speaking loudly enough to disturb you and anyone else, you can complain.

      Your challenge is that, as with the response from Red Pony above, people tend to get all gushy with babies and lose perspective. So whether or not your complaint is acted upon, is another thing.

      Clearly the parents have every right to use their own property to quieten babies. No person has a right to make undue noise in a common area for any reason, especially at an unreasonable time at night.

      I have three children under 8 years old, by the way. I understand the reality. But I also understand that having children is not a simple method of losing any responsibility that I have to other people.

      Commenter
      Too Funny
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 3:08PM
    • I think you're perfectly entitled to complain. Yes, it's a common area and everybody should use it, but that does not mean people are entitled to create a nuisance for other residents. If it were reversed, and you were walking up and down practicing your opera singing while they were trying to get their baby to sleep in their own unit, do you think they would have a problem? I would say speak to the actual resident and politely ask them to walk elsewhere. If they do not, then lodge a complaint. Also, just to drive the message home, when they start walking up and down and wake you up, why not joint them on their stroll and annoy them with conversation - "oh couldn't help overhearing your crying baby outside my window, oh isn't he or she cute, how old is he or she, tickles tickles, googly googly...' etc. They can't stop you from using common property also.

      Commenter
      T
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 3:39PM
    • This would no doubt in contravention of strata rules which often state you are not to interfere with other people's use and enjoyment of the place and not allowed to make noise in common areas. Walking a screaming baby up and down a hallway in front of other people's doors/windows is highly inconsiderate.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 4:08PM
    • Check the strata laws - in particular for your building. Children are generally not permitted to play in common areas of apartment blocks usually because of noise that might disturb the peaceful enjoyment of other residents. You could write a letter to the body corporate about it. It's not particularly considerate of the parents - they could take their howling infant for a walk around the block instead. You don't necessarily get peace and quiet in a house - I've got two extremely boisterous young boys next door (semi) who infringe upon my peaceful enjoyment on a daily basis.

      Commenter
      Lotus
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 4:28PM
    • This is NSW Strata Law (2010) on noise in common areas:

      An owner or occupier of a lot must not create any noise on a lot or the common property likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot or of any person lawfully using common property.

      Commenter
      Lotus
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 4:47PM

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