February 27, 2007

I'll Take a Table Around Eight O'Clock

IN NEW YORK, WCBS-TV recently aired a mildly disapproving story about a Long Island restaurant with the audacity not to serve parties with children. It's not exactly clear from the story why exactly the restaurant in question, the upscale Luigi Q in Hicksville (!), doesn't serve children, other than that it's "not a children type of place." However, it is clear the station doesn't like the practice much.

This was made eminently clear through the presentation of the story, which is actually billed as an "exclusive" to the newscast. No, really. Oh, and it gets better. The station actually used a hidden camera in its reporting, because restaurants that don't serve kids are as nefarious as three-card Monte dealers and corrupt politicians.

I mean, for Christ's sake, they actually put up the "CBS 2 INVESTIGATES" graphic. What, was the storm center down for maintenance? The traffic report not exciting enough?

But anyway -- to bolster their case that Luigi Q's is supposedly doing something wrong, they turn to a Cornell University professor who goes on about how society is becoming less kid-friendly:

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"I've been kicked out of stores, seminars and restaurants,” said Cornell University Professor and author, Meredith Small.

Small says it’s all part of a growing anti-children trend. "When they make a policy that no children are allowed, it's a little Draconian, why not say if there is a screaming child and the parents don't get up to leave the waiter can come over over and say take your child outside, I think everybody would be happy with that," said Small.


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No, everybody would not be happy with that, particularly those of us who would like a nice evening out without screaming toddlers within earshot, or worse, screaming toddlers within earshot whose parents are mouth-breathing, inconsiderate, churlish buffoons.

That, in reality, is the true problem these days. People can deal with children crying a little, but they can't deal with the increasing number of parents who lack all manner of social graces and let their children ruin everyone else's evening out. Besides, it seems hard to believe that a parent clueless enough not to take their crying child for a walk would do so because the waiter told them to take a hike. It's far better to leave the kids at home and prevent problems rather than wait for things to get out of hand at the restaurant. Hire a babysitter, for God's sake.

That said, I do think restaurants which forbid children (or minors in general) should make a point of mentioning this up front, so you don't have the type of disagreements and squabbles which undoubtedly prompted the WCBS story. After all, that's just good management. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to think restaurants could do also promote family-friendly dining hours (say between 5 pm and 7:30 pm) while not seating minors at a later hour. This would let families enjoy an evening out without worrying their children would cause a ruckus, and ensure the adults eating later had a bit of peace.

You see, I don't want to sound entirely unsympathetic to parents who may just want an evening out. After all, let's say it's been years since you've gone out to eat, and you go to a great little Italian place, and instead of eating his french fries, your young toddler son picks up each one and drops them from his high chair to the floor below. While not disruptive or alarming to other diners, that's an uncomfortable situation; somewhat embarrassing, and there's not much one can do about it. But it does show that many children, no matter how wonderful and nice, sometimes need to do a little more growing up before going out again. It also shows that children can, if properly trained and educated over the years, eventually become fine companions with whom to dine, even when still teenagers.

Still, as an adult who prefers to dine out with friends or with a copy of The Wall Street Journal, the idea of a child-free/minors-free restaurant seems really appealing at times. The trouble is that the places available now, at least around southern New Hampshire, tend to focus more on drinks than the food. But were any restaurant to declare itself off-limits to children, I'd definitely put in for a table, say around eight o'clock.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 27, 2007 11:36 PM | TrackBack
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