Banning Kids from Restaurants

Should Oak Park restaurants maybe keep children out, at least at certain times of day?

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By David Hammond

I was in Red Hen Bread on Lake street a little while ago.  A mother was wrestling a noisy child out the door, and when she saw me, an older-bordering-on-elderly person looking at her, she said, “I’m so sorry.”

Realizing I may have been projecting an unintentionally stern demeanor, I quickly smiled and said, “No worries.”

Kids, to me, are the most amusing, interesting people, and I’m usually fine with them making all the noise they want.

It’s understandable, though, that some diners find children’s behavior offensive – and their doting parents irresponsible.

Last week, McDain’s in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, announced they would ban children under six from their restaurant.

According to owner Mike Vuick, “We feel that McDain's is not a place for young children. Their volume can't be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers."

"We've had the place here for 22 years,” Vuick continued, “and I've noticed…there are certain parents who can't leave their children at home. You know, their child -- maybe as it should be -- is the center of their universe. But they don't realize it's not the center of the universe."

McDain’s is not the first restaurant to make it clear that children – especially loud, wild and unmonitored children – are not welcome.

Last year, Dale Levitski at Chicago’s Sprout banned children from brunch because, he said, "[Sometimes you] go out to brunch and there are kids smashing Cheerios next to you." Out of concern for the comfort of his diners, Levitski made it clear he didn’t want kids bawling during brunch.

There are a lot of kids in Oak Park. There are also a lot of Oak Parkers, middle-aged and older, who maybe want to have a quiet meal without listening to children crying.

And it has not escaped my notice that children, though accompanied by parents, are not uncommon at places like Poor Phil’s and even some bars on Madison Street, which raises the question of whether children at some bars and restaurants may be inappropriate for reasons beyond the noise they might make.

Have you ever felt that, maybe, some Oak Park restaurants should keep children out, at least during certain hours of the day?

Reader Comments

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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2011 12:56 PM

There are always more important issues, Steve, and one could as easily ask Why all the fuss about the debt ceiling when we have a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the Earth ten times over. I feel some responsibility to keep this thread -- which is about dining -- going in a positive direction, and name calling doesn't help. But you knew that, right?

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2011 12:42 PM

Dave, don't you get my sarcasm? All of our politicians in Washington are about to push us off the precipice, and people are getting worked up over children in restaurants! Let's save our histrionics for something worth getting worked up over.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2011 12:01 PM

Though an emotionally polarizing issue, this topic can be discussed without invective, as many on this thread have demonstrated. Civility, please.

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2011 9:16 AM

Epic: what restaurants do you patronize? I would hate to dine next to a pompous blowhard.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 5:59 PM

Regina, this has nothing to do with "mean" kids! This has to do with parents who do not raise their children to understand how to behave in various environments. In other words, they let their kids run wild and expect others to just get over it. Go to the Main library sometime and you will see plenty of parents who see nothing wrong in letting their kids race through bookstacks in the adult sections and scream! Or they shush them and the child knows it's an empty gesture.


Posted: July 22nd, 2011 4:56 PM

Most of the comments here seem to be pro-kiddies, so I'm missing the point about OPers being intolerant. Personally, kids in restaurants don't bother me. However, I know they bother some, and I don't think that a couple of child-free establishments should be cause for upset. Like Bridget said "let a business do what it wants" and see how it turns out.

Funny.... from OP  

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 4:14 PM

@Steve: Thank you for your comment. Why is it that Oak Parkers claim to be so tolerant...when their intolerance raises its ugly head so often? The world is full of annoying people...and sometimes, each one of us IS the one doing the annoying. I'm pretty sure all the major owrld religions cover this fact...

epic lulz  

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 4:12 PM

I'm happy with just banning everyone named "Steve" from restaurants.

Regina from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 2:51 PM

Children are part of society and the human population. If you choose to leave your home and go out and interact with society, children will be included in this interaction. It is just part of brushing up against humanity. I have found occasional encounters with rude or uncaring adults more upsetting than the voices and tears of children at tables next to me. In the end, I brush off those encounters as someone having a bad day or perhaps a misunderstanding. Children deserve a similar benefit.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 1:53 PM

Let a business do what it wants, and see if there is a market for it. {{shrug}} The idolotry of our RIGHTS...Good grief. Can we all just get over our sorry selves?

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 10:12 AM

GREAT IDEA! Ban children from your restaurant. While were at it, also ban people who talk to loud, people with cell phones, people who smell bad, Catholics, Jews, Muslims... where do we stop?

epic lulz  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 10:21 PM

@OP Mom, oh I think you're missing the point; the point of the WJ forum is to stake out extreme positions and talk past each other. ;)

OP Mom  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 10:09 PM

You folks who think we are missing the point are missing the point, we are NOT anti-kid. I adore all four of my kids, and welcome the opportunity to bring them into a Giordanos, Applebees, Chili's, name it; and they WILL behave proper. I am suggesting that if I frequent the likes of L20, Quartino, Publican,Purple Pig etc. I can enjoy a meal without a child present. Too much to ask????? Nope.

O P Resident  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 9:56 PM

Sorry all you whiners. All you non children folks live in our world with children. Deal with it. This is OP. Kid friendly OP. Ha

epic lulz  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 9:54 PM

I agree with "Seriously?". Don't ban children. Ban adults with children.

Seriously? from Oak Park  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 7:41 PM

As someone who has raised three children in Oak Park, I can tell you that I only frequent kid-friendly restaurants. Those with a kid menu and good attitudes towards well-behaved customers of all ages. If there is a problem with kids in restaurants, that means the parents aren't doing their jobs of teaching children how to behave. Perhaps interested restaurant owners should screen adults, not ban children.

john murtagh from oak park   

Posted: July 21st, 2011 7:14 PM

I eat in many restaurants that seem to have no problems with children. This week at both the Marion Cheese and Jimmy there were children dining after 8pm and it did not seem to be a problem for anyone. Most families who bring children to restaurants have rules the kids follow and like in church they do not hesitate to take a child outside for their reprimand or solace. My comment could be a mistake. I am certain that there will be a comment that there should be adult churhes as well.

Be My Guest  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 3:29 PM

I think there's only one way to find out if this idea will work--some restaurant has to try it! Now all we have to do is find a restauranteur willing to intentionally alienate a segment of the market in the middle of this economy . . . any volunteers? No? Bueller? Anyone?

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 2:40 PM

@David Hammond: I realize Giordano's isn't schmancy, but it's a sit-down joint, not a hole in the wall with vinyl, red and white checkered tablecloths. And these geniuses were sitting their sipping on their chablis as their spawn went berserk. I have no issues with wild children; it's on the parents to buy a frigging clue.

Susan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 2:26 PM

As a mom of three kids under the age of 4, we take our kids to a range of restaurants from sushi to Jimmy's place. I think our kids are better from the experience and have the opportunity to try a range of food items and learn how to behave at restaurants even the semi-fancy ones.

OP Mom  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 11:39 AM

River Forest Anna: how is it "insulting" to want a few restaurants that only grown-ups go to? "Insulting" is name-calling, putting folks down, etc. NOT a business owner making a decision to create a kid-free environment for the relaxation and enjoyment of his guests.


Posted: July 21st, 2011 11:35 AM

Jimmys Place in FP seems to be very kid/family friendly restaurant. Memo to all: Kids make noise. Nothing new here.

Anna from River Forest  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 11:28 AM

Banning children may mean banning parents. My husband and I go out with our kids (4 months and 15 months) and have no problems. Without family to help, I would have to find a sitter (who I may not trust with 2 so small) and PAY to go PAY more to eat. Not happening. Insulting.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Oak Park  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 11:20 AM

@Anne Then you've never eaten out in Oak Park. 90% of the restaraunts in the Village are what I'd call "family friendly." George's, Maple Tree, La Majada, Buzz Cafe, Penny's Noodles...where are you trying to take your kids? Sushi?

EileneH from Oak Park  

Posted: July 21st, 2011 11:13 AM

I think it would be VERY appropriate in restaraunts that serve alcohol. There's nothing more annoying than being out after 8pm...trying to enjoy an adult beverage (that I've paid $$$ for)...and listening to a child being kept up WAY past their bedtime scream because they're overtired. Parents...if your kid is annoying enough that people around you are asking you to quiet them down...they're annoying enough that you should ask for your food "to-go" and leave. Or pay for my dinner. You pick...

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 7:16 PM

The table is a powerful civilizing experience, and I admire kids, so I'm with Pamella and fine with having children everywhere (yes, Finnegan's Wake ref). Masterchef, if it's a win, then I'd say go with it...but my bottom line is not the on the line, of course. Violet Aura, to your post, I say, yes, kids need strong boundaries, and those boundaries are logic and love. It worked for my three daughters. But really...Giordano's? Respectfully, what did you expect?


Posted: July 20th, 2011 4:22 PM

I'm all for some places being kid-free. I'm a mom, but there are times when I might want to enjoy a quiet meal. At the same time, maybe it's because I am a mom, I rarely notice any of the restaurant behavior that so many complain about. Part of me thinks that some people are annoyed by children in general lol. I agree that children learn to behave in certain environments by being exposed by said environments. Yet, I don't believe this should mean every restaurant NEEDS to allow kiddies.

OP Mom  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 4:15 PM

"I think that most kids are autistic on some level" This comment tops all, I'll be laughing all day at that one. Love it! I think WSJ should just write controversial articles so this chick will post.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 4:12 PM

One thing so many parents do today which ties into this issue of misbehavior is defering to the child. For instance, they will ask very young children what they want, which gives too much freedom and is not age-appropriate. They will ask a young child if they want to leave. Sometimes I think it's a guise to avoid seeming dictatorial, but it sets up a bad dynamic where the child thinks s/he calls the shots. Plus young children need strong boundaries to feel safe.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 4:08 PM

cont. to control their kids. The waitstaff were weenies. Why should other patrons have to get up and tell the parents that they need to parent their children? I believe that children are being poisoned via vaccines or something that is pretty universal. I hear this shrieking that is unearthly. I think most kids are autistic on some level and that explains their behavior. They will melt down for no apparent reason. I used to think the parents were just spoiling them.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 4:05 PM

@Pamella: How will children learn how to behave ANYWHERE if the parents don't TEACH them? Simply bringing them to a decent restaurant will not magically guide them to acting appropriately. I was at Giordano's years ago with my partner and these clueless parents were sitting there as their precious angels ran around the restaurant. The adults just sat there and we were pissed that our meal was being ruined by these rugrats. They even ran under the server's tray! Finally we asked the parents *TBC*

MasterChef from Oak Park  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 3:08 PM

For a me a no-child policy would be a plus and the promise of a quiet dinner would be likely win my return patronage. I don't see any Oak Park establishment going that route though. Given that some parents publicly spoke of boycotting Oak Park businesses with the temerity to oppose the recent elementary school tax increase, implementers of a no-child dining policy would probably be hung in effigy.

OP Mom from OP  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 2:40 PM

I think having some restaurants without kids is an excellent idea. (And I am a parent of 4) Kids don't belong EVERYWHERE. Chili's, Applebees, sure, that's cool. But, if I'm in an upscale joint on "date night", I welcome the peace and quiet that comes along with a child-free environment.

anne from Oak Park  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 2:17 PM

As a parent of two children ages 6 and 4 we rarely eat out in Oak Park because there are no real family friendly places.

Interested Parent  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 8:28 AM

In most cases, it's not really the children who are at the root of the problem. It's the parents. Bringing their children to restaurants or stores and then letting them run around speaks to the parenting. My wife and I have watched many parents totally ignore their children while they are making a fuss. Discipline starts with instructing children on when to sit quietly and when they will be taken out of the restaurant. We welcome your children... please teach them some good manners.

Pamella D. Dolney from Cleveland, Texas  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 2:18 AM

How are kids ever going to learn how to act in public if they are banned from the public.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 7:44 PM

Funny Fred, a chef friend of mine posted exactly the same thing on Facebook. I'm not sure he understood that I was not advocating banning kids -- or anyone -- from anywhere.

Fred Tamburino from Oak Park   

Posted: July 19th, 2011 5:49 PM

They should ban reporters from restaurants!

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