Bringing Baby to Dinner

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Pursuer of happiness. Bon vivant. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. There's a Twitter account at @burtlikko, but not used for posting on the general feed anymore. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

Related Post Roulette

237 Responses

  1. E.C. Gach says:

    Easiest solution, and the one that would occur to me, is to have either I or my spouse go to the restaurant with someone else.Report

  2. E.C. Gach says:

    Or aloneReport

  3. E.C. Gach says:

    Any time a performance is involved (which restaurants like this do, and ones like Chili’s don’t), then kids are out.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      I think the notion that restaurants are like a piano recital has not seeped out into the general public at this point, even among people who enjoy fine dining. If that’s the way restaurants want to have their service understood,I think it remains on them to communicate it, especially those that charge you a nonrefundable $275 for the right to sit down and order.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    Zazzy and I make a point to bring Mayo with us to a variety of places and events. This is purposeful. We do not want to be the sort of parents whose life ends because the babe arrived nor do we want our son to grow up a hermit. But we try to be as thoughtful as we can when bringing him. Does the place have high chairs or a kid’s menu? Does it have a full service bar that people are going to get sloshed at? What is the volume level? Ultimately, who is the target audience for the venue? This is best determined by the owner/proprietor and I would offer a pretty wide degree of latitude in establishing such. However, it would behoove them to be as upfront and transparent as possible… ESPECIALLY if attendance at the event is hard to come by. If you don’t want kids, put that on the website and tell guests who make reservations (or buy tickets). For parents… if it is not obvious, call and ask. Most places know whether they are kid-friendly or not (even if they do not have a formal policy) and are happy to give guidance.

    What frustrates me is people who think their entire existence should be kid-free. And who get mad at kids for doing kid-appropriate things in kid-appropriate places. Or even kid-appropriate things in mixed-spaces. We have yet to fly with Mayo, but I understand that crying babies on an airplane can be a major annoyance. But I have sympathy for those parents, provided they are taking reasonable steps to address the issue; the plane is not the place to practice cry-it-out. But babies are going to cry. And telling parents that they should not fly until such time they can guarantee their children will not cry seems over the top. Parents, children, and families are “people” to. And no one is entitled to a perfectly silent flight. A little understanding goes a long way… in all directions.

    An anecdote: I was on a flight once where a baby started crying during descent (my hunch is its ears popped). It continued crying as we taxied which took longer than usual. This was after several hours of tear-free travel. As best I could hear, the parents was trying to soothe it. Someone piped up, “Someone quiet that baby!” Another voice piped up, “The baby’s a baby. What’s your excuse?” That response summed up my feelings on the matter pretty well.

    I’m not sure that the reason why matters all that much. I guess it can go towards whether we find the parents wholly obnoxious or sympathetic but in a tough luck situation. Alinea would have been well served to say, “Unfortunately, we do not allow babies but we are happy to honor your ticket at another time. It will probably be a few months though before we can get you in.”

    Again, a little understanding goes a long way.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

      To expand a bit on the anecdote… sometimes adults engage in behavior far more obnoxious than children but we oddly give them MORE leeway than we give children. This boggles my mind. A three-year-old whining is annoying but understandable. A forty-year-old whining ABOUT a 3-year-old whining is both annoying and ridiculous.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Oi. You should see the 47 year old busting up about the kid with Tourettes.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

        With due respect, this seems like a typical parent underestimation. A brief exclamation is whiny and in poor taste, sure, but it’s nowhere near as obnoxious as a baby crying loudly for even several minutes. In general, adults complain briefly and then either shut up or have their complaint dealt with; babies, on the other hand, can go for huge stretches of time being loud and will never calm down. I’d rather deal with a cranky and obnoxious adult than the average crying baby.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:

      Alinea would have been well served to say, “Unfortunately, we do not allow babies but we are happy to honor your ticket at another time. It will probably be a few months though before we can get you in.”

      An excellent solution. I wonder if it occurred to the parents to call and see if that might be possible (given what was probably their state of stress at that moment, no condemnation is intended if they didn’t), and if the restaurant would have agreed.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        It kind of shocked me this wasn’t the ultimate outcome.Report

      • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Alinea has a no cancellations policy.
        That’s why they call them “tickets”.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Well, I think it would have behooved them to make an exception. Or to reconsider such a policy in favor of the no kid policy.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        A lot of places like that make the point that they buy very expensive ingredients for use with that one specific menu for that one day, so they don’t save much money if you pull a no-show. There’s also the opportunity cost of an empty table at a restaurant that always sells out.

        Even so, I am a little surprised that these places don’t have a “last minute wait list” that would allow a ticket holder to call and request a postponement. Just have your answering service call down the wait list looking for somebody to take that night’s slot, and if they get a hit, call the ticket holder back and inform them that they’re no longer on the hook.Report

      • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I agree, this is about keeping prices down.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I also fail to see how a savy concierge at a few downtown hotels doesn’t have a friend or two there than can call him up at noon to say “this place has a possible cancellation, can you use two tickets for tonight’s dinner?”

        If the place is routinely sold out, you’d think that those “last second” tickets would be the bread and butter of such…Report

      • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Mostly, people from out of town either “go someplace” or they “don’t go someplace”. And concierges aren’t for standby. They’re for bribing, and getting you in come hell or high water.Report

  5. NewDealer says:

    I agree that children probably do not belong in high-end restaurants like Alinea but also sympathize with the couple and think a bit more compassion could be showed to their situation.

    I am at the age where many of my friends have or are starting to have their first kids. One woman from high school just announced pregnancy number four! She is only a year my senior. I have other friends who are rather anti-kid.

    What interests me is how this seems to be a no-grounds for a center/moderate approach and all out culture war. Perhaps that is because the only people who participate seem to be hardcore childfree people and parents. Relatively neutral people like me rarely chime in.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to NewDealer says:

      I think this polarizes so quickly, in part, because of the imposition of a dilemma: Alinea can serve these patrons, or not. There is no middle ground there.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Well, I also think the more vocal people are going to be extreme. People will pen, “NO KID!” screeds and “YES KID!” screeds but few will take the time to pen, “MAYBE KID!” screeds.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Burt Likko says:

        In this case, I agree. My facebook feed either dubbed this decision to be mean/cruel or a Yes please!

        However, I think Kazzy is right above that a lot of child-free people seem to think they have a moral right to have their lives be completely free of seeing children. They often lack a certain level of thought in this and you can see people complaining about kids acting like kids at a new screening of the Last Unicorn or Labryinth. I have very little patience for people who want to go to a movie theatre showing a kid-friendly movie and then complaining about kids being present and acting like kids. This is also true for people going to arcades, fairs, and other kid-activity places.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I disagree. They could have set up a kid-pen in the break room (or coat room).
        (now, naturally, that takes warning, and preparation).

        If a high class restaurant will provide a jacket and tie, why shouldn’t they be able
        to minimally accommodate a child? (note: I’m not saying they need to watch the child —
        simply provide a childproof space, presumably for an extra charge — $50 should suffice).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:


        I think it is worth pointing out that everyone here has taken a pretty nuanced middle ground. Which tells me that the sort of people to make a big kerfuffle one way or the other are the type of people to make a big kerfuffle one way or the other. Vocal minorities and what not. You don’t get clicks or likes or retweets by staking out reasonable ground. You get it by being ridiculous. Insisting that children should be shackled in the basement until such time they can balance a plate on their head is ridiculous. Insisting that children should have every experience of the world at their fingertips is ridiculous. Ridiculous people be ridiculous.Report

      • Reformed Republican in reply to Burt Likko says:


        If a high class restaurant will provide a jacket and tie, why shouldn’t they be able
        to minimally accommodate a child?

        I imagine there are certain regulatory standards required to provide a space for children in a public place like this, making it nontrivial.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If absolutely necessary, you seat the parent with the child. That should satisfy most requirements. (and, honestly, if you can get the parent to sign the “I understand no liability means no liability”, with the expectation that it’s the parent’s duty to check on the child…Report

    • trumwill in reply to NewDealer says:

      A friend of mine complaints about kids constantly. I remember at one point he was complaining about kids in a candy store. But it was a gourmet candy store! he said. As if rich people don’t also have kids who like candy (and aren’t obsessed with making sure their kids get sugar candy instead of (heaven forbid) corn syrup candy.

      JVL has a section on this in No One’s Expecting. Specifically the conflict between parents and people with pets who tend to get distracted by children at the park.

      And of course, who can forget Megan McArdle’s “People with young children shouldn’t fly” declaration.

      (None of this should be taken to reflect on Burt or most child-free individuals, who tend to be pretty reasonable.)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to trumwill says:

        I’m not familiar with that book. Worth reading?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill says:

        Hold on, McMegan said something selfish and clueless?Report

      • Glyph in reply to trumwill says:

        You know, I looked up that Tweet because I am used to people overreacting to McArdle, and I figured she made some sort of more nuanced argument, such as “very small children don’t know (and can’t really be told) how to pop their ears, so bringing them on a plane amounts to cruelty.” Which is why my wife and I are debating whether or not The Boy is ready for a flight.

        But…nope. McArdle just feels they shouldn’t fly. Because it knowingly inconveniences others and parenting involves tradeoffs (don’t I know it).

        Which…that *is* kinda selfish and clueless.Report

      • Kim in reply to trumwill says:

        I can’t see how “people with pets” would be upset by kids, except for the obvious dangers of “dog bites kids head”.

        But that’s just me.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to trumwill says:

        Was it Mccardle who said we should throw babies at mass shooters to stop them?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to trumwill says:

        That one was an example of her critics deliberately taking a nuanced argument and reducing it to something ridiculous because they believe that says something about McArdle and not her opponents.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill says:

        That McCardle piece isn’t bad, but it’s an example of her weird lack of proportion. Mass shootings? We need to face the fact that we can’t eliminate or even reduce them, and the most we can do is try to lessen their effect (e.g. by teaching children to rush the shooter rather than being picked off one by one.) People walking away from underwater mortgages, on the other hand, is unconscionable!Report

      • Will Truman in reply to trumwill says:

        The bigger problem I had with the piece was that she argues that smaller clips wouldn’t help, but if she wants to argue that people should rush the shooter, having to switch clips or guns could actually be quite helpful. If not in Newtown, then maybe elsewhere.

        I agree with her on the underwater loans. I wouldn’t use the word unconscionable (I’m not sure that she did) but I think it does the system of non-recourse loans harm when people who can pay off their homes decline to, and non-recourse loans are something I would prefer to see preserved where they exist and expanded to where they do not. (I’d also add that the “Walk away!” crowd was extremely reckless in their advice, often ignoring or making only a passing distinction between recourse and non-recourse states.)

        Okay, I’ll get off my soap box on that now.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to trumwill says:

        Speaking of one of yesterday’s posts, complaining about kids in a candy store may be the textbook definition of irony.Report

  6. I suspect that you would get a different answer for this from the Better Half, were he to comment. I tend to be hypersensitive to the irritation of other people, even in restaurants that clearly cater to families. He is a little bit more laid back.

    That said, I think it is entirely appropriate to stipulate that certain venues and events are not meant to include children. We rarely see films in the theater these days because getting a sitter is a hassle, and many of the ones we’ve used had the temerity to graduate high school and move away for college. When we do secure sitters, we usually avail ourselves of the opportunities to enjoy the local fine dining (which is really very good, though obviously not Alinea quality). There is no way on earth I would bring my kids to such a place, and if I faced the disappointing circumstances of the couple in the story above I’d try like to dickens to find friends who might enjoy my lost opportunity. Not only would my kids (who generally do pretty well at not being heathens, I will say) quite potentially disrupt the enjoyment of other patrons simply by behaving like kids, but I would be way too anxious to enjoy myself anyway.

    I can see well-intentioned mistakes like the one your friend made happening from time to time. But I think parents who believe every place should welcome kids are being grossly inconsiderate, and I think Alinea is perfectly within its prerogatives to keep itself child-free.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      A pair of super close friends got married last summer. I was in the wedding party. Mayo was just about to turn three-months-old and Zazzy would be returning to work the following Monday. We initially planned to bring him with us when the groom indicated this was acceptable. However, it turned out this was in error and that the only children welcome at the wedding were the groom’s nieces (3 and 5). While this was a tough pill to swallow, particularly for Zazzy, we abided their wishes. How could we not? The wedding was not about us. I repeat… the wedding was not about us!

      A friend of the bride opted not to. She insisted on bringing her son. This infuriated the bride and sent Zazzy up the wall. This was her first time away from Mayo for the night and seeing another baby made it all the harder. It didn’t help that we came to sit across the picnic table (rustic wedding) from the couple in question and had to hear them gush about their son (who they dumped on the groom’s nieces’ babysitter) the whole time. These were the type of tone deaf, oblivious, self-serving jerks that we vowed never to be. When we mentioned that we, too, had an infant son. They couldn’t believe it. Not because it shocked them that we didn’t bring him. But because it never occurred to them that anyone else in the world had children; they were special snowflakes.

      As a general rule, people should strive not to be tone deaf, oblivious, self-serving jerks. This can happen on both sides, but is probably something the parents need to be a bit extra weary of.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

        You and Zazzy acted thoughtfully, and with a degree of commendable sacrifice given that this was mom’s first time away from the baby for a substantial amount of time. I’ve seen the anxiety that causes. But the other couple did not govern themselves thusly. When that happens, is there anything to do but tolerate it? And doesn’t this result in conceding the standards of behavior to those thoughtless-to-rude folks, precisely the ones that such norms are aimed at?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, weddings are probably unique enough that I’m not sure what other option the couple could have availed themselves of. But generally speaking (and this comes up a lot in schools), I think it important to enforce the rules you create. Else you reward rule breakers and incentivize further rule breaking.

        As I understood it, the bride was quite forceful in telling the friend not to bring the baby but the latter insisted and eventually the former just gave up… it wasn’t worth the hassle. As I understand it, this might have been the final straw in an already strained/distant friendship.Report

      • Angela in reply to Kazzy says:

        With our first kid, with an “away” wedding, we hired a sitter from the hotel. We were at the wedding, went back for a bit, and then went to the reception. By request, we brought the kid down for a brief showing after dinner. We spent a lot less time with our friends than we would have normally, but it was an “okay” compromise.
        Weddings are hard.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        We would have done that but this wedding had unique circumstances. The wedding was in a barn with the bridal party staying at a rented home across the way. All hotels were a 20 minute drive away. We were in the house. We would have gotten a hotel room and a sitter if it was closer. But it didn’t feel reasonable given the distance. It was in a really remote section of the Catskills. Otherwise, you have offered (here and elsewhere) some pretty reasonable suggestions.Report

      • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

        Indian weddings are different. You bring the kid there. There are lots of lull periods which involve just the priests the couple and their parents being directly involved in prayers and chanting and other stuff. Bringing the kid along is a useful distraction (and in fact at least one baby is required as part of the ceremony)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Some weddings in the states are baby friendly, some are not. It depends on a number of factors.Report

      • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

        I totally respect that there some weddings in the states can be more kid friendly than others. I’m just stating the cultural conventions for Hindu weddings. Especially when weddings are held in India, wedding halls often (maybe even always) have lots of spare rooms with beds for mothers to put their infants to sleep in. Well the rooms are for the families of the bride and groom, but there usually is a spare bed or 2.Report

  7. Kazzy says:

    I also want to say that I find the chef’s tweet to be incredibly poor form. I don’t believe that the customer is always right, but the customer should be valued enough (even at super in demand places) that proprietors shouldn’t go out of their way to publicly shame or embarrass them. You’re a professional, dude; act like it.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

      Yeah, uh, if you don’t have a no-child policy, and you only offer non-refundable tickets to your establishment, you set the bear trap, dude.

      Don’t step in it and then start yelling about it. Bad form.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

        I mean, once they let the kid in, that’s that, right?Report

      • Kim in reply to Patrick says:

        They’ve got the right to kick people out of their establishment at any time.
        It’s a private establishment.

        Of course, they also have the right to charge you an additional $50 for a sitter,
        which I think would probably have been the better option.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:


        My point is that they shouldn’t have allowed the kid in in the first place. If you show up with a kid and say, “Is this cool?” and the restaurant says, “Sure,” they assume most of the responsibility at that point.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Patrick says:

        Unless they showed up, said “is this okay?” and were told “of course as long as it’s not a disruption to the other guests”.

        And then who’s it on when the kid IS a disruption?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:


        I would say mostly on the parents. Were I given that response, I would say, “You can’t guarantee shit with babies. I hope to god you are willing to let us reschedule.”Report

      • Murali in reply to Patrick says:

        The tweet didn’t seem like yelling, more like a musing about what he should do in the future.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        The tweet didn’t seem like yelling, more like a musing about what he should do in the future.

        To be fair, that’s totally how I read it, too.

        But, yanno, it’s Twitter. If you’re not ready for people to overreact and say completely crazy stuff about the things they thought you said… and then you’ll start getting criticism for the things people thought you said instead of what you said…Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      I don’t think the chef’s tweet is that bad. No names were named, the details were minimal all around, and he wanted to know what to do. The issue isn’t well-served by being limited to 140 characters, of course, but there aren’t that many issues that are.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think @a-teacher ‘s analysis below is a fairer one.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think the tweet wasn’t that bad. I can see him standing there at the end of the night frustrated and dumbfounded and grasping for an idea. And considering what he ~could~ have tweeted I think that if we assume it was an earnest request for ideas it came off fairly well. My first read of the tweet attributes the “ppl mad” comment to him feeling like he was in a Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don’t kind of moment. He couldn’t just ignore it because his patrons were not ignoring it.

        That is fairer. I should have just kept scrolling and said “yeah” to his when it got to it. Perhaps I’ll do that now.Report

  8. Michael Cain says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but back in the day when our kids required sitters, if my wife and I were going out for a $550 dinner scheduled months in advance, we would also have been paying for two sitters for the evening. Because sitters do cancel, and paying for a second one is relatively cheap insurance.Report

    • Judith in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I don’t quite agree – you can’t just get anyone to be a baby sitter. We are very fortunate in living within 20mins drive of four close family members that can help, but I simply know no-one else that I could use as a sitter. I don’t know where one locates a sitter if you don’t happen to live close to family and/or close friends that have experience with babies. It’s not like you can google for the closest person willing to provide the service at an acceptable rate 🙂Report

  9. j r says:

    And at the last minute, the sitter cancelled and they could find no one to watch their eight-month-old baby.

    Does anyone know how far before the meal, their sitter cancelled?

    I don’t have a strong feeling on the appropriateness of babies in restaurants. I’m content to leave it to the restaurant to decide and then let them digest feedback from their customers on whether they’ve made the wrong choice or not.

    I do think that people ought to avoid bringing young children into certain situations. How hard can it be for someone with the money to afford a $700 dinner to find a sitter in the second largest city in America? I wonder if it’s that they could not find anyone to watch their baby or that they couldn’t find the appropriate college-educated, gluten-free, free range baby sitter.Report

  10. Angela says:

    I think there were several mistakes made in this situation.
    1) I don’t think kids should be banned. I think disruptive behavior should be banned. If the baby had quietly slept through dinner, can we all agree this would be a non-issue? If some adults got into a shouting match, can we all agree they should politely, but firmly, be shown the door? The problem isn’t the age; the problem is the disruption, and the way this takes away from the dining experience from all the other patrons.
    2) It’s very important to expose kids to different environments and to teach them the different “appropriate behaviors” that go with it. I’m much more in the Europe mode than the American here. Kids (well-behaved, non-disruptive) should be part of life, not shuffled off to Chuck-E-Cheese.
    3) There were 2 parents here. One of them should have taken the child out of the restaurant, or into a quiet room or waiting area, or the bathroom, or someplace. The other eats quickly and then they switch. There weren’t that many dinners that I ate alone, since we usually would go out with a friend or two. But the responsibility is *totally* on the parents to deal appropriately with a disruptive child. Part of taking a chance with bringing a kid out in society is being ready to deal with things when it doesn’t work out.
    4) The restaurant has no obligation to make this easier. However, with the prices they charge, keeping someone on staff who has childcare credentials and can be pulled in to mind the brat (in a quiet room) if needed would not be very hard. And charge the parents a hefty fee for the service. But only if the child is disruptive.

    I have three kids. We took them out a lot (fancy restaurants, concerts, movies, parties). I spent a lot of time in lobbies (as did the spousal unit).Report

    • trumwill in reply to Angela says:

      I want to second Angela’s #3.

      We feel uncomfortable taking Lain out to IHOP. I took the baby to IHOP once by myself, and when I did, I asked if I could get the bill and to-go styrofoam so that if the baby blew up I could just pack my stuff and go.

      I’m not sure if this place has styrofoam, of course, but when there are two people, that provides its own solution. It may ruin the experience of your meal, but you still get the opportunity to eat it which isn’t nothing. That’s preferable, I think, than ruining everybody else’s meal experience.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to trumwill says:

        I’m curious about the whole “meal being ruined thing”. I mean, IHOP ruins IHOP’s meals more often than not. People seem to tolerate a lot of behavior out in public. But if it is a baby? Holy shit, do they get mad. IHOP is loud, active, and a bit chaotic. One fussy baby should not “ruin” anything there.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill says:

        They don’t have styrofoam, only stuff made of molecules. (Pretentious much?)Report

      • NewDealer in reply to trumwill says:

        Alinea is the type of place that serves you many small plates of a course of hours. French Laundry mentioned above serves meals that last three to four hours and are highly coregoraphed. There is no selection, just tasting menus. Most people will never eat at places like this probably.

        It is not a to go Ihop or take home bag kind of place.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to trumwill says:

        My buddies and I used to go to IHOP pretty regularly to eat and chat. It’s not exactly Alinea, but It would have been annoying to have a baby crying at the next table over. Which I don’t think ever happened, usually as a product (anti-product?) of the late hour we would go. Not unlike when there were drunk cowboys, which because of the late hour was more common. Except while I don’t run the risk of being a drunk cowboy, I do run the risk of being the guy with the screaming baby.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to trumwill says:

        If it takes place over hours, that removes the middle ground (children allowed before 7 or 8, but not afterwards) but also makes bringing a baby or young child with you unthinkable to my mind. My dining experience would be ruined by trying to keep Lain entertained, whether she cried or not.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to trumwill says:

        Well, 2am is different than 10am. IHOP has a kids menu and talking pancakes. Kids seem to come with the territory. If you don’t like crying babies, don’t go to IHOP for breakfast on the weekend. The door should swing both ways.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to trumwill says:

        If I were at IHOP trying to have a conversation with other adults and there was a disruptive child near, I’d probably do nothing and say nothing, and suffer the irritation. IHOP is sufficiently casual and aimed at families — there is a kids menu, a stack of high chairs by the door, and loud clatters from the kitchen on a constant basis — that I think I ought to expect kids there.

        A younger, snobbier, and less tolerant me might have said or done something. Which would have made me the hoser, not the parent.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to trumwill says:

        People seem to tolerate a lot of behavior out in public. But if it is a baby? Holy shit, do they get mad.

        I agree that babies and other disruptions kind of come with the territory at a place like IHOP. But I suspect that there’s something about the sound of a human baby crying that is a hard wired interrupt in the human adult brain. It’s easy to shut out loud conversation and a host of other noises, but a baby crying goes straight to the foreground, probably for very good evolutionary reasons.Report

    • Mo in reply to Angela says:

      Re #2: The baby was 8 months old random stuff will happen. You don’t get to go to Alinea until you can master TGI Friday’s.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Angela says:

      I’ll third this #3.

      In a public place, without a no-child policy, it’s not entirely out of bounds to assume it’s okay to bring your child along.

      In a public place, if you’re causing a disruption and it’s possible for you to remove the disruption (i.e., you’re not on an airplane), it is kinda on you to diminish that disruption.

      Kitty and I did this multiple times; we couldn’t find a sitter, we’d take a shot at dinner out, and if Jack (or later, Hannah) decided to get fussy one of us would pick them up and head out to the front of the restaurant to walk them around a bit.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Angela says:

      Also concur to #3, as my wife & I have done this on numerous occasions.

      Bug generally has better table manners than most adults, but he is still only 20 months old & occasionally loses it. When he does, we move quickly & quietly to calm him or clear out.

      Our ultimate hope is that with all of his dining out (& other out in public) experience, he will sooner learn how to behave in public & we will be able to do a lot more with him.Report

  11. Chris says:

    My own view about bringing young children pretty much anywhere is that it’s fine, but if they start crying, it’s the parents’ responsibility to either get them to stop or take them outside (or to the bathroom, or wherever).

    That said, a debate about whether it’s appropriate to take infants to a restaurant that costs $275 per person may be about the most First World Problem-y First World Problem ever. Ever. Maybe second only to the debate about whether to take young children to parties on your friends’ 100 ft yacht.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

      My working title for this post was “A First World Problem.”Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

      Haha, I almost considered issuing an apology for encouraging you to change it.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Chris says:

      I find it odd that it’s broadly seen as acceptable to exclude a whole segment of humanity from wide ranges of places, not because those places would be dangerous for them (no children on construction sites – I get it. No children at movies about gruesome violence – I get it, though that’s even stretching the “safety” argument), but because other occupants of those places simply do not like that segment of humanity.

      If a restaurant’s policy were “no blacks” or “no turban wearers” or “no transgendered people” or “no wheelchair users”, on the basis that their clientele doesn’t like being confronted with racial, religious or sexual diversity, or with the fact of human frailty, we would quite rightly find the restaurant’s policy reprehensible and its clientele reprehensible – at least insofar as the policy upholds a genuinely felt interest of the clients rather than just the management’s own prejudices.

      But suddenly when the aspect of human demographic diversity from which the clientele feels entitled to be shielded is age, that’s acceptable?

      I say this as someone who does in fact get a babysitter when I go to certain destinations. I just don’t see how we can be ethically justified in expecting that.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:


        While I agree that the list of places that should be off limits to young children should be far smaller than many other people seem to think, I do think discriminating based on age is different than the other things mentioned. The developmental needs of young children are different from those of adults in a way that can not be analogized to race or gender or sexual orientation.

        If the owner of a restaurant wants to create an intimate, quiet dining experience for his guests, it would be reasonable for him to enforce rules to this effect. If you come in with a boombox on your shoulder, you will be asked to leave or at least return it to your car. If you are making business call after business call, you will be asked to cease the behavior or leave. If you are engaging in raucous conversation, you will be asked to quiet down or leave. All of these seem reasonable given the purpose of the space as defined by its owner. But none of them should result in banning people who might be more inclined to engage in the offending behaviors… teenagers or men in suits or loud mouths. Members of those groups are fully capable of comporting themselves in a way that is consistent with the explicit rules and expectations.

        Young children are different. Young children typically do not possess the ability to remain quiet over an extended period of time. They do not appreciate the consequences of not doing so. They are likely not there of their own volition. The expectations are different because the inherent abilities are different — something which cannot be said of people of different races, genders, or sexual orientations.

        Now, this can be abused. Some malls forbid teenagers without supervision. I disagree with this. Some restaurants extend bans on children to include tweens and teens. I disagree with that as well.

        But if the ban is in place to support a broader vision and other such rules to that effect are consistently enforced, I do not object. If the baby who may or may not cry is kept out but the loud mouthed drunk is invited in again and again, I would cry foul. At that point, it is not about the purpose of the space.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:


        I sort of semi-agree. I just don’t know how we can make a principled defence of it. How does an intimate, quiet dining experience get concessions unavailable to an intimate dining experience where you don’t have to be confronted with the sight of disabled people?

        There’s a restaurant in particular where I live, whose no-minors policy is, as far as I can tell, just down to the owner not liking kids:
        – they have a restaurant license, so they’re not required to keep out minors as a bar-licensed establishment would be
        – it’s not a no under-5s policy, it’s no minors – even though a 15 year old is just as capable of table manners as an adult
        – it’s not a shishi joint either – it’s a noisy, mid-price, mid-quality cajun restaurant with a jukebox in the cornerReport

      • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        My wife brought up an interesting potential civil-rights angle to this issue some years ago – banning nursing infants is effectively banning their mothers too, but not their fathers. And while age is not a category protected from discrimination, gender is.

        This affected her in that she works in theater, where business meetings are frequently held in bars. And while there’s no way any waiter would be dumb enough to accidentally serve whiskey to an infant who anyway lacks the motor skills to bring it to her mouth, the bars weren’t able to let her in.

        A year or so later, in Brazil, we went into a bar for lunch, somewhat worried we’d be booted out – instead a waiter grabbed a highchair for us…Report

      • Kim in reply to dragonfrog says:

        okay, taht cajun joint is evil, and should be boycotted.

        I’ve been to plenty of places that wouldn’t card a 21 year old,
        and would cheerily serve to 18year olds, if the 18year olds
        were stupid enough to ask for liquor.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:


        I think a principled defense can be made, but the onus would be on the owner to demonstrate why the age restriction is both necessary and justified.

        With regards to bars, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. I used to go to Brother Jimmy’s, a BBQ chain in NYC. It was a bar/restaurant, but during more bar-heavy hours, they carded at the door. This included weekend afternoons when people flooded in to watch college football. But they still let families with kids in. We tried to have a buddy’s birthday there. But they wouldn’t let his 20-year-old brother in. They did let in the family with the 8- and 10-year-old. But not the 20-year-old. Somehow, he was simultaneously too old and too young to be in the establishment. Now, this makes perfect sense was viewed practically: he risked being confused for a 21-year-old and thus posed a risk that the 8- and 10-year-old did not. But this means that there is some age between 10 and 20 where you go from being young enough to be in the bar to being too young. Which is some sort of weird space-time continuum brain trip.Report

      • Reformed Republican in reply to dragonfrog says:


        Why does the owner need to defend his age restriction? If he wants to provide a place where people can eat without children present, and people wish to eat there, why does it need to be justified?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:


        As @dragonfrog , people simply not wanting to be around another sort of people isn’t sufficient to exclude said people when we consider race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. So why make that the case with children? Can a bar exclude old people because young people find old people icky? I doubt that would stand up.

        So I don’t think that not liking a group is sufficient to defend against claims of discrimination. I think the owner would need to demonstrate why children would detract from the experience he is seeking to provide. Because there are a whole host of children who can comport themselves perfectly in a restaurant and who would be unfairly excluded. Not wanting to have to look at a child isn’t sufficient.Report

      • @kazzy Somewhat related – the grocery store near me is one of the handful in the state to also have a liquor license. Presumably to comply with the terms of their liquor license (though maybe it’s just store policy, I don’t know), they have a policy that they card every single person who tries to buy alcohol no matter how old they appear, even if you look like a WWII vet. To avoid straw purchases, they also have a policy that they card every single person in the purchaser’s party, and if everyone isn’t over 21, they won’t sell, again regardless of how old they look. They do not, however, card my almost-6 year old because, well, duh.

        What I’m curious about, though, is what will happen when that 6 year old is 16 years old, or even 13 years old. Will I effectively be barred from bringing her to the grocery store with me? I’ve got no idea what the answer is to that question.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Yea… what is the magical age? “Prove you are UNDER 14! Library cards, everyone. Let’s see ’em!”

        Also… a grocery store in NJ with a liquor license? Whaaaaaaaa? We had one convenience store near us that somehow was able to sell beer, which was super handy when you needed beer after 10pm (as I understood the laws at that time, liquor sales cutoff at 10 but beer could be sold beyond that; most stores shut down since the majority of their inventory was off limits) but it was talked about almost in hushed tones… like if you said it too loudly it’d cease to be.Report

      • Wegman’s, baby! I don’t know how they pulled it off, but they managed to get liquor licenses for all of their NJ stores (at least the ones I’ve been to). Whole Foods was recently making a huge push to get the laws changed so that they’d be able to get liquor licenses to, but I don’t think that they were able to succeed.

        I’m guessing that Wegman’s just paid through the nose for their licenses and Whole Foods isn’t willing to do that, but I really don’t know the dynamics there. I do know that Wegman’s has had their license for about 10 years or so; before that, though, the only grocer I knew of with a liquor license was the local Murphy’s chain in South Jersey.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I think the owner would need to demonstrate why children would detract from the experience he is seeking to provide

        That’s actually where I get stuck – why is “providing an experience” sufficiently privileged to allow exclusion on demographic lines?

        We obviously agree that someone seeking to “provide the experience” of a segregation-era restaurant shouldn’t get to exclude black people – even though that would be a highly salient feature of the experience.

        In the US context, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 says housing providers cannot provide the experience of an apartment building without children in it. Other that that, it doesn’t seem age is a protected class in the US.

        So, apparently, a restaurant might be just as much within its rights to have a maximum age as a minimum one, to provide its young patrons the experience of eating without risking horrifyingly uncool grey haired wrinkly people sitting at the next table. Most of use would think that restaurant’s policy to be repugnant though – what principled difference is there between the minimum and maximum age?Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:


        This doesn’t actually solve the problem of the discrimination itself – just highlights the ineffectuality of attempting to enforce it:

        Once your daughter is old enough to be carded, she’ll also be old enough to fetch groceries on her own – so split the groceries up, hand her some cash, and send her through the checkout line as an independent shopper who’s not buying booze…Report

      • Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

        While, as I said, I think children should be able to go just about anywhere, so long as their parents are responsible and keep them from being disruptive, I don’t think children who are not only not yet capable of adhering to the tacit rules about how one behaves in certain places, but are in fact incapable of even understanding that such rules exist, are analogous to any of the other groups you mention.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        There are certainly differences. There are also differences between discrimination on the grounds of race and on the grounds of religion.

        Now, why is it that the outcome of those differences is allowed to be “we don’t let little kids in the door”, rather than being strictly limited among decent people to “we accept disruptions from little kids that we would not accept from adults?”

        I mean, I’m not fully convinced restaurant owners aren’t in fact justified in excluding small children – but if I accept the conclusion they are so justified, I want to have confidence I haven’t accepted a conclusion later generations (or even future-me) won’t find just as repugnant as if I had accepted that it was A-OK to kick out gay people or Muslims.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:


        You bring up interesting questions. Definitely stuff to ponder. Generally speaking, I think we should give more latitude to children rather than less, while some people think drunk and obnoxious adults are okay but fussy children are not. Go figure.

        Regarding housing, while recently touring apartment complexes, we asked, “Are there other young families here?” We even had our infant son in hand to prove the question was genuine. Every response was the same: “Legally, we are not allowed to answer that.” I’m not quite sure I understand the logic in not being allowed to answer that particular question, but it probably stems from broader prohibitions on discussing age and other demographic data of residents.Report

      • Pyre in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Saying that a restaurant is discriminating against people is like saying “No shirt, no shoes” is discriminatory to people who do not believe in wearing shirts/shoes.

        ACTUAL discrimination is “I don’t want kids here because they are young”. Unless you can prove it is about that and not “I don’t want kids here because it is a disturbance on par with the engine of a 747 at full blast.”, then the discrimination argument is just using a buzzword to bolster a non-existent argument.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

      It’s not really the same thing, is it? It’s reasonable to expect the same standards of behavior from adults of a wide range of demographic categories, but it’s unreasonable to expect an eight month old infant to conduct herself with the same decorum as a forty-year-old.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “…it’s unreasonable to expect an eight month old infant to conduct herself with the same decorum as a forty-year-old.”

        Yea… 40-year-olds should be given MUCH more leeway.Report

  12. trumwill says:

    Ultimately I consider this to be a restaurant decision and I would respond accordingly. If there is no prohibition on kids, I would probably bring Lain along in these circumstances. Though if Lain started to cry, Clancy and I would take turns walking her around while the other ate.

    I think the middle ground here for the restaurant might be “No children for reservations after 7pm, and child-free by 8pm.” Or something along those lines.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to trumwill says:

      I wonder if this is the first time such a situation presented itself… either in terms of someone showing up with a baby (likely) or the first time a baby cried in their midst (unlikely). If it was indeed unprecedented, I give the restaurant some latitude in progressing towards a policy (though still object to the Tweet) and hope they prepare for the future accordingly.Report

  13. Kazzy says:

    I think movie theaters present an interesting parallel.

    For a long time, cell phones didn’t exist and it was unnecessary to have any rules about them. Then they did exist. And, more or less, people recognized that just as they shouldn’t talk to the person next to them, they shouldn’t talk to the person on the other end of the phone. But ringers, text alerts, surfing, texting… all of that was new. What were the rules?!?!?! Well, the theaters established them and announce them before each and every film. “Here is how we expect you to act. Get with the program.” And most everybody adheres (though I just heard someone was shot because he wouldn’t stop texting in a theater… sigh…).

    I would venture to guess that even considering bringing young children to such events is a relatively new phenomenon. It is natural that there would be a transition period. Restaurants would be well served to figure out what sort of environment they are seeking to create, determine the rules that best allow for that, and post them clearly.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

      There are escalating technology and legal wars going on. Cell phones in the theater are obnoxious to enough customers that some theaters installed jammers on the cell phone frequencies. The FCC interpretation of current law is that use (as well as sale) of such jammers is illegal. There are a batch of little outfits* working to develop the tech to pin down a phone’s location with sufficient accuracy that no-service zones such as the inside of a theater (but not the lobby or hallways) can be defined. When the phone enters such a zone, the service provider would block network access, with exceptions made for people who register as emergency personnel. There are unanswered questions about the legality of such use: does purchasing a ticket imply consent to service blocking?

      * Full disclosure: I recently did a bit of consulting for one such company on the math involved in their approach to the problem. Given accurate sensor data, the location can be pinned down to a sphere with a radius of a couple of feet. The sensor problem is non-trivial, but appears to be solvable if they throw enough money at it.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Michael Cain says:

        What about the option of Faraday cages? It might be a bit of a dodge to comply with the letter but not the spirit of the ruling, but at least there’s no danger of your metal box accidentally extending beyond its intended limits and blocking calls of people merely walking past the building.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

        You’d damn well better put that service blocking on the ticket.
        Plenty of people are “oncall” with cellphones these days.
        Wouldn’t want to kill someone, wouldya?

        (now, if disclosed, I think it’s fine. if you’re in teh movie theater
        and you don’t hear about your dad getting hit by a car. well,
        you knew about it going in, didn’t you?).Report

      • Faraday cages tend to be expensive, and can cast “shadows” that block service outside the cage as well as inside. Depends on local network arrangements. RF can do really weird things.

        Kim, what happens when the theater construction has enough metal in the walls, floors, and ceilings that it creates lots of dead spots? Is the theater under an obligation to notify customers that they may have no service at random places inside the building? What about dragonfrog’s Faraday cage? If I spray the interior walls of the theaters with copper-bearing paint with the right formula, I can guarantee that cell phones won’t work inside — requires notice? The company I did the consulting for wants to make blocking selective — notify your carrier that you’re on call and you get service. Ideally, you get “vibrate” even if you haven’t selected it yourself.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

      To note: The guy who was shot was texting before the movie, before the previews even started. Not that it makes it any better, but he wasn’t being an inconsiderate ass.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy : ” (though I just heard someone was shot because he wouldn’t stop texting in a theater… sigh…)”

      If I may, I think this is the media framing a story ridiculously in order to drum up ratings/page hits. I will bet you a million dollars that the guy was actually shot because someone was mentally ill, or some other similar explanation.

      In the same way that MLK wasn’t shot because “he wouldn’t stop talking in public while being black.”Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The little bit I heard said someone was texting, someone spoke up, popcorn was thrown, shots were fired. I agree that there is probably at least a wee bit more to the story than that.

        I mean, who throws popcorn? For what they charge for it, you’d be crazy to waste it!Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Given the was in the US, live ammunition was probably the cheaper projectile.

        Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have pointed that out – now the movie theaters will start selling bullets at their concessions and having “no outside munitions” policies.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Kazzy says:


      though I just heard someone was shot because he wouldn’t stop texting in a theater… sigh

      No, the real reason he was shot was that he wasn’t also carrying a gun for self defense.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

      Since this seems to be a subtopic, here is the short of it:

      Guy is at theater, texting his daughter during the previews. 71 year old ex-cop gets annoyed with him, and after getting no love from theater management, gets into verbal altercation with texter. He then claims he felt something hit his face, so he pulled his gun & shot the texter.

      Of note, texter was unarmed, shooter is a retired cop (retired cops get to carry their guns with them everywhere, forever, as per federal law).

  14. Kazzy says:

    It also stands out to me that no one has really brought up what is best for the child. When Mayo is older and more aware of the world’s reactions to him, I would not want to put him in a situation where him doing age-appropriate things brings him scorn. That is harmful to him.Report

  15. I think Kazzy pretty much has it down.

    When our daughter was about 8-9 months old, we (ok, mostly I) made the mistake of taking her out with us for dinner; we quickly realized that it was not a place that would be appropriate, so we asked that our meals just be packaged to go. A few weeks prior, we had stopped by Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse on the way home from visiting family in Buffalo, and had no problems. When she was 2 years old or so, our friends invited us to a Brazilian steakhouse type of joint, and they made clear we could bring our daughter; it actually worked out beautifully, and our daughter actually managed to out-eat our friend (who was a Twinkie away from 400 lbs at the time) in one or two courses. No one was bothered in the slightest by her, and the staff pretty much adored her. We also flew with her twice; the first time, when she was about 8 months old or so, she slept the whole flight both ways; the second time, when she was just shy of the lap limit, she was fine on the way there, and had huge problems on the landing on the way back after being really active but otherwise quiet the entire flight, which bothered the hell out of The Wife and I, but other passengers didn’t seem to notice.

    When she was a few days shy of her fourth birthday, we took a huge leap, knowing that she was a very well-behaved kid and had done very well for awhile at chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays, and took her on a vacation with us to France, where we were meeting up with a group of friends for over a week. We did this because the trip was going to be too long for us to reasonably leave her home due to some extenuating circumstances not worth getting into here.

    Anyhow, it helped that we were staying for most of the trip at a house our friends had rented in the countryside; basically, one of us stayed at the house with her for a couple of the days where the group was just doing wine tastings, and the other days, we brought her with us when we were doing things that were kid-appropriate. We finished the trip in Paris, where we were a bit more on our own and able to plan things out to be kid-appropriate. We brought her with us to dinner when we didn’t eat at the house in the countryside (which allowed us to sample food from local markets, which was as much fun as going out), and generally made a point of eating a little bit early if it was dinner, or late if we were going out for lunch, with the other meal of the day being street food (yay!). Except for the big group dinner on the last night, by which time she had more than proven herself, we also tried to find places that had kids’ food on the menu (which was quite a lot of places), though virtually none of them had activities for kids. She was exceedingly well-behaved throughout, and the staff at every place we went in the countryside doted over her like you wouldn’t believe; even at the place we ate on the last night with the whole group, and which was a reasonably high-end bistro-type place, everything went swimmingly, and just about everyone there thought it one of the most enjoyable dinners they’d ever eaten. Yes, I’m bragging….deal with it!

    The trick was making sure that wherever we went, we brought enough activities for her to do quietly; it also helped that we went to Disneyland Paris by ourselves our first day of the trip. At the end of the trip, our friends confessed that they had initially had some apprehension about us bringing our daughter, but were quickly proven wrong, and that they were actually really glad we had brought her – she actually made the trip more fun.

    All of which is to say that there shouldn’t be any kind of hard and fast rules about this subject,at least once the kid is old enough to have begun to be cognizant of themselves as an individual (about 18 months for most kids, I’d say). Before that, though, I think parents should probably be fairly careful about the types of places they go out to, though by no means should they choose to avoid flying just because their kid isn’t yet self-aware – as Kazzy said, life shouldn’t have to stop for parents just because they have a kid, but beyond that, parents have a right to go and introduce their infants to friends and family who maybe don’t live close by.

    Once the kid’s 18 months old or so, then parents should be free to bring their kid wherever, as long as they properly consider how well-behaved the child will be and how the experience will impact the child based on past experiences. A child who hasn’t proven themselves to be well-behaved at a Ruby Tuesday’s shouldn’t be going to a four star restaurant; but a kid who has proven themselves at two and three-star places absolutely should be able to take the next step, as long as the parents make a point of ensuring that the kid will have enough activities to keep them quietly occupied throughout.Report

    • Also, parents should, where possible, make a point of asking whether children are welcome before they make a reservation or sit down. This is true of any non-chain dining situation.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Most of my friends don’t have kids but have heard me say enough times, “I’ve got little man with me today so it needs to be kid friendly,” that they will target kid friendly places whenever possible. Or they will make clear to me, “We’re having a birthday dinner but it’s not kid friendly. We’re giving you notice so you can plan accordingly.” Again, a little thoughtfulness and understanding go a long way.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I’d venture to say that a lot of places become much more “kid friendly” if visited at “off hours”.
        Lunch at 2-3pm is a good time for places to suddenly “not care” if there’s a kid with you. Even a noisy kid. [you can always be seated on the other side of the restaurant.]Report

    • Kim in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      It strikes me that outdoor restaurants (cafes) are easier to tolerate crying babies in (less noise rebound, more whitenoise that isn’t crying).

      I honestly don’t remember any time I have ever really been annoyed by a crying baby.

      As to taking kids to child appropriate movies: I reserve the right to complain about parents letting their kids pee their seats, no matter what movie they were taken to. I don’t care if the entire theater wants to sing along to Annie (that’s fine, expected really), but peeing your seat is beyond the pale of “expected behavior for 7 year olds”Report

  16. A Teacher says:

    In no particular order and as a parent of 2…. (ages 6 and 2).

    I think the tweet wasn’t that bad. I can see him standing there at the end of the night frustrated and dumbfounded and grasping for an idea. And considering what he ~could~ have tweeted I think that if we assume it was an earnest request for ideas it came off fairly well. My first read of the tweet attributes the “ppl mad” comment to him feeling like he was in a Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don’t kind of moment. He couldn’t just ignore it because his patrons were not ignoring it.

    I think that I struggle to grasp the idea of spending $500 on an eating experience when my wife and I are quitting dance lessons because what we thought was going to be $30/ wk is going to be $90. (give or take). I’m also not an owner of an XBox One which I could get for the same price as that dinner for two. That said, I also think that if I could afford $500 to eat dinner I have the resources to find SOMEone to take care of my kid while I’m out for the evening, if it’s a matter of calling my personal assistant and telling them they have an hour to make it happen or I’m finding new PA, or a matter of begging another overly-well-to-do friend, or what have you.

    The more I think on it, the I think that we’re being too kind to the couple in question. They’ve got the disposable income to blow what many people would consider an honest week’s wage (let alone a day’s wage) on a single several hour experience, and yet they don’t have the decency to think that others partaking in it would be bothered by a screaming baby? It’s a kind of hyper-ego-centricism that makes my skin crawl.

    I don’t think that any establishment needs, per se, a no child policy. But I think it does well for ALL establishments to have a policy that states disruptive patrons will be asked to leave, and then politely remind people of this before it hits the “you gotta go” level. I don’t care if it’s Applebees or Alinea’s, but there are basic courtesies for all parties that can be followed.

    The hostess can explain when the couple arrives that while the baby is indeed adorable and surely won’t be any problem, everyone is there to enjoy the experience and to please keep that in mind. It’s not bad business savy at this point to suggest a new ticket on a different night and with a rescheduling fee that is kept “off the menu” so that it does not become commonplace. Or maybe make it part of the policy, but then plan for it. Cancelations suck and you don’t want people spending money on all manner of time managing reschedules, but at the same time you also don’t want to alienate people willing to drop $250/ seat.

    Then when the baby starts to fuss, you give the parents a little time and then approach with a polite “Would you like the chef to hold your further courses while you take care of your situation?”

    And when it hits the last moment a very polite, “We’re so sorry but this is becoming a distraction for the other patrons. We would would be happy to arrange another night with you” (at a MUCH higher rescheduling fee, like almost a full ticket).

    I think in the comments above, the issue is not the baby, it’s the disruption, be it from a baby or from two people in a shouting match.

    Parenting is hard and I agree that we can’t expect every parent to disappear into a hole for 18 years. But I also think that being a parent does not make you immune from ruining other people’s experiences. You have to weigh them all.Report

    • Kim in reply to A Teacher says:

      Counter: Most people take vacations. It is very easy to drop $500 just to get someplace for two folks on an airplane.

      If this meal is worth “a portion of a vacation” for them, why shouldn’t they take it? It’s probably more fun than the flight, at any rate.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Kim says:

        While I’m constantly reminded that despite two incomes, and extensive college, my wife and I are still lower middle class, I do not consider $500 something to just “Drop”. In fact if I were to invest that in the “travel” part of a vacation I’d be making a lot of plans and back up plans just in case.

        Likewise I’m a little harsh towards the couple because it gets into the “why didn’t you make some more backup plans?” when it came to the sitter. I call a sitter 3 weeks, text her 2 weeks, and talk to her again the day before the dinner. And the day of she bails on me? I’d demand to know exactly what she planned to do about the fact that we weren’t going to be able to go to our $500 dinner.

        And in that I’m lucky. Our sitters are family friends, or former students and so I know there’s a level of accountability baked into the system. If someone were to cancel on me I know they’re the type who would say “And I have a friend that had you last year who’s free if you’d like to use her instead”.

        I just don’t feel like that’s an excuse….. or rather that if “$500 isn’t that much money” that it goes hand in hand with the “couldn’t plan better/ deal with the consequences”Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        While I have no doubt you’re absolutely in the right here, I’d like to urge a … little … clemency. If this is the first time they’ve ever had a sitter cancel (possible, if they’ve got a young baby)… well, then I can understand.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to A Teacher says:

      I worry about the presumption that this couple was of limitless means. What if they scrapped and saved for months to afford a really special night out?

      For me, it is tough to criticize anyone in this situation too harshly (and your interpretation of the tweet is a fairer one than my own). A difficult situation arose and people handled it less-than-ideally, but I don’t think we know enough to say definitively that someone was a Horrible Person. If the parents went to the hostess, explained their plight, and said, “What are our options?” and he said, “No worries… sit down and enjoy the fabulously overpriced watermelon,”… well, hard to fault them for doing just that. I understand the chef being reluctant to turn away a patron and he likely didn’t know about the situation until it was too late. As I said elsewhere, this was presumably an unprecedented situation for all involved so it shouldn’t be surprising that it went less than perfectly.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

        I can’t go there, man. I want to but I just can’t see how a couple going out for an extremely fancy dinner gets to play the “we didn’t know what to do” card.

        The restaurant gets to play it because I think it’s accurate that they weren’t prepared for that. But by 8 months you’ve been around the rodeo enough to know that babies are predictable only in their ability to be loud.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy says:

        The thing is, that’s not long enough to know that sitters are unreliable. And that’s where the couple had a problem – they had already spent the $500 several months before because of this restaurant’s policy. The fact that they still felt like they had no choice but to bring the kid tells me that they’re not wealthy enough for this to have been just a drop in the bucket for them – I’d wager a fair amount that the dinner reservation was an important anniversary present or something of that sort; I’d also wager a fair amount that it was the couple’s first night out since the kid was born.

        The more I think about it, honestly, the more sympathy I have for the couple, and the less sympathy I have for the restaurant owner, who made the policy of requiring non-refundable tickets be purchased months in advance without any consideration for the fact that sometimes stuff comes up in people’s lives. With a waiting list like he’s got, the restaurant owner ought to have a cancellation policy wherein he just requires enough notice for him to find a replacement for that night and allows a cancelling party to reschedule.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Would you be more sympathetic if the meal cost $50 instead of $500?Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        I agree on that. entirely.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

        A fair point, if the cost of the ticket were more in line with my own ability to afford it would I put so much on the couple for it? Or to the point do I attribute so much negativity because a couple able/ willing to spend so much more than I am able/willing to spend I feel owes it to themselves to be better “managed” about it?

        While I realize that money does not grant with it common courtesy or such I like to think that those who can afford such things have an responsibility to behave such as defined by society. You can’t codify it, but I’m considerably less tolerant of it when it’s a perceive a case of rich people behaving badly. Class envy? Yeah, I gots it.

        But it’s something I tend to say things like “I’m just a school teacher from Michigan, I’m not that smart, and I’m not that rich and even ~I~ know not to do that.” Usually it’s in relation to binders full of women and the like… I put this in the same boat. Even ~I~ know better than to take a baby to restaurant and let them scream.

        So would I be so Anti-Couple if it were a nice local resturant with $25 dinners rather than an exclusive experience with a $250 price tag? Sorta, barely. I’m not very cool with it when it happens at Applebees. I know there’s a limit but I have said to a waitress “We ~were~ going to stay for dessert but I’m afraid it’s just too loud for us to enjoy much more of our meal, can we have our check”.

        I just honestly don’t know. Really. Part of my reaction is tied to my own budget and values and that’s very hard to shake here. I think it’s because I can’t help but see $500 as either “no big deal” or “so much of a big deal that they’ve been saving forever for it”. And in both cases there feels like more could have been done at the “higher price tag” level.

        I think, being honest, I’d side with the restaurant. I’ve done it when places have declared that “after 8pm is adult only” because I think that is part of a calculated business choice, just like a month long wait for a table is.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I appreciate your reflectiveness, @a-teacher . But of course you would be! You’re a teacher! We’re reflective by our very nature!

        I don’t know enough about the parents’ circumstances to determine if they are rich-and-dumb and therefore deserving of less sympathy or if they are hardworking-and-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place and deserving of more. And, of course, those aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

        I don’t think they are blameless. It was probably unwise to even consider a venture to such a place with as many variables as an infant presents. What if the baby was ill? Would they still dump it on the baby sitter because, dagnabbit, they are going to get their $250 watermelon slice? So… a lack of foresight and forethought seems reasonable to criticize them about. Though, as a new parent of a like-aged child… I would say… “Fore what? How many thoughts?” Though I’d like to think I know enough about myself to say, “This is probably the wrong year to go for the $250 watermelon slices.”Report

    • Kim in reply to A Teacher says:

      yeah, I was willing to take it as “frustrated chef is frustrated, and wants ideas”
      He didn’t call anyone obnoxious, or rude, just mentioned that other diners were upset.Report

  17. Jaybird says:

    Have they done studies as to what the effect of children is on non-family members? Stress levels, additional illnesses, etc?Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yeah, it was only a matter of time before we became concerned about the effects of secondhand child in the workplace.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      My mother would tell you that any and all effects are well worth the advantages. At least for now. While he’s cute.

      My brother would probably say something different, if not entirely opposite: useless now, but cool when he can DD down the road.

      tl;dr: Probably impossible to measure.Report

  18. Tim Kowal says:

    I am by nature a bit reclusive when it comes to public activities, so I am a little reluctant even to take my very active and expressive toddler to Chuck-E-Cheese. The one time we have flown with her, I can guarantee I was the most tense person on the flight. (Other than during a delay on the tarmac, she was fine.) Pre-kid I was a bit of the “why would you bring a child here?” variety. I’ve certainly changed that perspective, even if I am still personally uncomfortable when the LO loudly advertises our existence. But I get over it — my wife and I were happy to tell a woman exactly where she could get off after she put her finger in our cranky child’s face in a checkout line over the holidays.

    I’m not a foodie so I can’t relate on that level. And even if I were, I would be so uncomfortable at the thought of interrupting others — not to mention that I’d be interrupted from focusing on the food for the same reasons — that you’d have to pay me to bring the kid. But another part of me, the cultural critic and demographer part of me, worries that our problems are far from there being too many kids running around.Report

  19. Shazbot3 says:

    I agree with a lot said here.

    I do think some people get or claim to get more irritated at a crying baby or a playing child and demand action they have a right to.

    I find perfume noxious. Horrid. It is just me. But I don’t go around complaining that people wearing perfume ruined my meal or my airplane experience when both have happened. People wearing perfume is human. It is my problem that something human’s do bothers me.

    So it is with babies. They cry. That shouldn’t irritate you. It is a human thing. If it bothers you, you should deal with that.Report

    • Kim in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      I wouldn’t say it would be a problem for you to ask to move if someone’s perfume is bothering you at a restaurant. Asking simply, and politely, and giving a bigger tip should cut it.

      You shouldn’t have your meal ruined by ambergris.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Shazbot3 says:


      So it is with babies. They cry. That shouldn’t irritate you. It is a human thing. If it bothers you, you should deal with that.

      Would you say the same thing for, say, a trip to the ballet? Or a poetry reading? At some point, the level of ambient noise is an important part of the experience. A restaurant like Alinea is very unlikely to be the type of place with a lot of background noise. In my experience, the noise level at that type of restaurant is very carefully controlled.

      I know that if I had a reservation at a top end restaurant and was told that there’d be a screaming child at the next table over, I’d cancel immediately even though I wouldn’t even blink at having a screaming baby next to me at Applebee’s. You’re just paying two very different amounts of money for two very different experiences. In the former case, it’s just not worth it.Report

      • Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Not if it was Stephos’.
        (okay, my definition of “fine dining” may be different than the next person)

        I want to be on the record as wanting more places that are cheerfully noisy,
        in such a way that having a baby crying a few tables over is not much of a hassle.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Are you in Vancouver, Kim?Report

      • Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Nope. haven’t been there since my honeymoon.Report

      • Alinea is famous for its quiet, museum-like atmosphere. After all, one of the reasons you’re there is to appreciate art.Report

      • Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Since when are museums quiet?
        Certainly not when exhibiting modern art.

        That’s theater, pure and simple.Report

      • Shazbot11 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        My point is that a screaming baby shouldn’t bother you instrinsically.

        Yes, if the baby is preventing you from hearing something that you have paid to hear, that is a different story.

        If the baby was pooping on people’s food, that would be a different story.Report

      • Like TF says elsewhere, though, it’s kind of a survival trait for babies that they cry in such a way that we have an especially hard time ignoring it or tuning it out. I’m not sure other noises are comparable in that respect.Report

      • A screaming baby does bother me intrinsically. Baby screams are loud, unpleasant, disruptive, attention-demanding noises. They bother me the way air horns, sirens, and nearby gunshots bother me. I do not choose to be around them in the normal course and scope of my activities. To be free from such noises is one of the reasons I chose to not have children.

        Maybe screaming babies aren’t particularly bothersome to you. They are to me. Sometimes, and in some places, and in some situations, I have to suck it up and deal with it. You can impose patience and tolerance on me in such times, places, and situations, by way of cultural imperatives and social mores.

        But you can’t make me like it. And there are also times, places, and situations when my reasonable expectation is that such irritations will not be imposed on me. And a night out to dinner at Alinea is such a situation.Report

      • I adore children, and voluntarily spend a lot of time around them. Including small babies. But the SECOND one starts crying, I go on mega-alert. The only thing I can think about is “how can we help the baby? what can I do to stop it crying? what haven’t I tried?” Perhaps this is a quirk of having had to contribute too much to the raising of my own sibs, but it is absolutely a different noise than any other kind of noise. I’m *better* at tuning out a siren, or an air horn.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        My point is that a screaming baby shouldn’t bother you instrinsically.

        Easy for a robot to say.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Yes, if the baby is preventing you from hearing something that you have paid to hear, that is a different story.

        What if what I’ve paid to hear is quiet? I haven’t been to Alinea, but I have been to similar places and in all of them, just talking really loudly would be considered rude and disruptive–not so much that the staff or other patrons would say something to you, but enough that people would notice. Certainly, putting your cell phone on speaker, getting into a shouting argument with your wife, or breaking out a stereo to listen to music would be over the top.

        Part of the feel of a place like that is that even when it’s busy, the other diners don’t encroach on your experience. It feels like you’re alone with the person you’re dining with. The staff/diner ratio is extremely high so you never feel like you’re waiting for service, but everybody stays out of the way so you never feel crowded or rushed. There’s a certain suspension of reality, a lot like being absorbed in a movie (another place where crying babies aren’t loved, even though the movie is easily louder than they are, so it’s not just about being unable to hear).

        We’re not talking about adding the sound of a crying baby to the background noise of drunk college students being rowdy and a football game on the bar TV. It’s more like adding the sound of a crying baby to the background noise at a spa. It doesn’t so much blend in as change the character of the place entirely.Report

  20. Murali says:

    I really do not get fancy restaurants where everything is decorated exquisitely, but the portions are so small but the price is so large. Why do people even go there? Its like buying something just because it is from a big label brand.Report

    • Kim in reply to Murali says:

      I don’t get sushi either. Food for the eyes just isn’t my thing.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Murali says:

      it’s a special treat. Not something I can afford to make a habit of, but a fun indulgence once in a great while. We’re I more affluent,,I might indulge a bit more frequently, but since I also find cooking enjoyable I also find pleasure in preparing food to serve family and friends. And since I do cook, it provides an aspiration. Now, there is another niche filled that I typically don’t deal with which is to display status and gain prestige. If you are a big shot doing big money business, this is a way of demonstrating your power and value to other people with whom you do business.Report

      • Murali in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Don’t you feel cheated when you’ve eaten your meal and are still hungry?Report

      • Long ago, a friend who was an accomplished amateur chef told me about the dining “experience” he saved for a couple of years for. Retired Michelin three-star chef living in Manhattan. For $750 (this around 1980) you started with him in the early hours of the morning at the fish and other markets picking ingredients, spent the day working with him on a lot of the preparation, debated the wine choices, then enjoyed the many-course meal served by extremely competent help. The chef did this about one day per week, on average. Afterwards, I asked my friend if it was worth it. “Absolutely,” he said, “Once.”

        Sometimes when I read your recipes and descriptions, Burt, I think that you’d be one of the select people able to appreciate a day like that.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Sounds like a super fun day. Maybe less so if it’s what you do for a living, but that’s the case with pretty much anything.

        As for my recipes, come on, it’s leek soup, for crying out loud. I hope to convey my pleasure in making it, so thank you for that. But I bet you can make leek soup too.Report

    • Shazbot3 in reply to Murali says:

      It depends. Some haute cuisine is pretty blah even though it looks good. Some is truly great and looks artsy fartsy.

      Anecdotally, in my experience, the most expensive fancy food is very often not quite as good as the somewhat less expensive (but still expensive) fancy food.

      I can’t afford any of it in my current life, though, and it isn’t something I miss. I find stuff that you cook yourself is better than even the best restaurants. it’s a cliche, but it is true.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Murali says:

      I agree. I’ve had some fantastic meals at very upscale restaurants on special occasions, but my “very upscale” is $30-40 per main course. And for that you get a full, sizeable, delicious meal. Sometimes if you find a particularly good place, you can get a similar-quality meal in the $20-something range, or even less. I can’t comprehend how $500 could possible be worth it for food.Report

      • Keep in mind, that’s for two people for a boatload of courses. If you go to a place that’s $30-$40 per main course, add appetizers, salads, and desserts, you’re very quickly at about $80-$90 a person, not including the costs of wine. I’ve never eaten at a place that approached $275 a person before drinks, but if you’re in a city like Chicago or New York where real estate is crazy expensive and the pool of customers with loads of income within a short drive is large, it’s not hard to see how you wind up in that price range for the highest end places.

        In this case, a quick glimpse at the restaurant’s website indicates that you get 16 courses with your ticket; while they’re presumably each tiny courses, it’s tough to eat 16 of anything and not feel completely stuffed by the time you leave. That also works out to around $15 a course, roughly the same as an appetizer at a regular high end joint (keeping in mind that each course is presumably smaller than an appetizer at other places).Report

      • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

        I can’t comprehend how $500 could possible be worth it for food.

        I imagine that one is also purchasing An Experience and associated bragging rights.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to KatherineMW says:


        “I can’t comprehend how $500 could possible be worth it for food.”

        Well, it’s not the food. It is the experience. Me? I don’t care all that much for experience. And least not enough to break the bank. But other people’s mileages varies and it is good that there are spots to cater to all tastes.

        Also, I’m not all that impressed with molecular gastronomy. It’s cool but the few times I’ve actually had something prepared with one of the tricks, it added little or even detracted from taste and texture of the meal. Again, other people are way into it and good on them. But I don’t need pearls of frozen olive oil made with liquid nitrogen in lieu of salad dressing… I need something that tastes and feels good in my mouth.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to KatherineMW says:

        I can’t comprehend how $500 could possible be worth it for food.

        The same way $80,000 is worth it for a car, or $12,000,000 is worth it for a home?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to KatherineMW says:



        As a general rule, if someone proposes that we go to the new cool spot that is ultra pricey, I ask, “What does it have over [really delicious, quasi- or uncool place that is affordable]?” If the answer is, “Well, it’s cool!” I pass.

        For Mother’s Day this year, my brother insisted we go to some speakeasy place in downtown Manhattan. It is called Please Don’t Tell. You can only get into it by entering the hot dog restaurant next door and going through a secret door in the phone booth. Yes, there is a phone booth and, yes, it has a secret door. Beyond that, you need to be on the list. We got on the list because my sister had connections. So we shuttled through the phone booth into a place trying harder to be cool by not being cool than I’ve ever been in. And proceeded to drink $18 cocktails and eat $5 hot dogs. The same exact hot dogs you could get next door for $3. They literally had a window between the kitchens and served the same damn tube meat. But, ya know, these ones tasted cool. And very, very few people ever ate them. And their cocktails used those fancy giant ice cubes (which you can make at home with a $10 mold)! So… yea, that place sucked for me but the rest of the fam thought it was the cat’s meow. Zazzy similarly hated it, which is how I knew I made the right call in escaping my family and starting one with her.Report

      • Chris in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Does it come with a t-shirt?

        “I got my ticket punched at Alinea!”Report

      • Kim in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Burger Joint is a hell of a lot more fun, if you’re in Manhattan and looking for a place with a hell of a story.
        [Also: people make strange, strange bets.]Report

      • Kim in reply to KatherineMW says:

        The highest end don’t have restaurants. And they charge WAY more than $500 a meal.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Yeah, but Katherine makes a good point with her scale for “very upscale”. When Maribou and I first got married, our “Night Out On The Town” involved going to Bambino’s and getting a meal that involved waitstaff and access to a full bar.

        Now, I’m blessed to say, Bambino’s is a “After the day I’ve had, I’m not in the freaking mood to cook tonight” option… and any given Night Out On The Town requires reservations… but at this point in our life, that’s not even a $100 tab *AFTER* the tip.

        I aspire to the point where my idea of “hey, let’s do it big for our anniversary” is to buy a meal that was an XBox One system rather than a couple of XBox One games.Report

      • Think about it this way – and I’m making a fair number of assumptions here, admittedly, but I like to think I’ve some understanding of what it’s like having a newborn – $500 is roughly the equivalent of one night eating out at Friday’s/Ruby Tuesday/Applebee’s/Etc. a month. With a newborn, though, you’re not eating out once a month; you’ll be fairly lucky to eat out by yourselves twice in that first year. Multiply 8 months of not going to your local regular eating out joint and you’ll come pretty close to that $500 that you’d have spent if you could have found a way to get out. So you could easily wind up saying “hey, let’s take the money we’d have spent on date nights for the last 8 months if we could have had date months and blow it all on one date.” I have a vague recollection that The Wife and I did something fairly similar when we finally had a night to ourselves back in the day, though I doubt we approached $500.

        Or, here’s another way to look at it – $500 is roughly the equivalent of one relatively cheap weekend night in Atlantic City, not exactly the most high-filutent place in the world – hotel room at the Holiday Inn, $100 each in gambling cash, and a dinner at the Johnny Rocket’s in the Bally’s. The folks who do this are not usually what you’d call rich, or even upper middle class; to the contrary, they’re basically the very definition of middle class. I find nothing unusual at all about a couple saying, “Hey, we’ll enjoy spending this money on a ridiculously nice dinner and feeling like we’re rich for a few hours a lot more than we’ll enjoy pissing our money away on the slots and sleeping in a shitty bed.”Report

      • Also, while that definition of “very upscale” is a pretty reasonable one in most places, in places where real estate is crazy expensive, that definition winds up being closer to a definition of “relatively upscale.” In the case of Manhattan, that definition will roughly describe a place only marginally more upscale than Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar (steak entree, $31.50). That would be this place:

        (Actually, last time I was in Midtown, about a year ago, I went there to see if the review was accurate, and quite liked it; you just needed to understand, “Hey, it’s Times Square, this is pretty damn good compared to the competition.”).Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW says:

        What I learned from a short visit in New York – if you want excellent food for cheap, go to Harlem. Not upscale, but spectacular comfort food, and probably better than anything you’d find in Times Square. Amazing chicken, and the only place I’ve ever been that could do cornbread correctly (everyone else makes it too dry).

        And Mark, maybe the reason your calculations don’t check out for me is that I wouldn’t jump to seeing eating out once a week, or even twice a month, as typical.

        I can understand liking food, and liking a good dining experience. I can’t comprehend the culinary pleasure of a place like Alinea being all that far above what you’d get from going to a normal, classy restaurant that did excellent food and cost a quarter of that price. I think a lot of it is a status thing.Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to KatherineMW says:


        With drinks (not expensive wine) a truly great multi-course meal can be had for 100.00/person, even in expensive towns.

        That is still very expensive. Disneyland or a Football game expensive.

        But Alinea and French Laundry are charging front row seats, luxury box prices just because they are famous, and their fame is based on questionable practices from Michelin and the haute cuisine crowd.Report

      • @katherinemw Oh, definitely. But most folks who visit NYC tend to wind up in Midtown. I, personally, have a well-engrained distaste for Midtown – I vastly prefer uptown and the Village; unfortunately, if you’re going into the city with your in-laws who want to see the Christmas tree, well, you don’t have much choice. I’m just trying to get at the way in which real estate prices impact restaurant prices.Report

  21. LeeEsq says:

    I’m really having a hard time supporting the restaurant in this case. Like others pointed out, shit happens all the time and Alinea does not have an explicit nobody bellow this age policy or a contingency policy when shit happens. Nor am I really that sympathetic to the other diners, whose experience was ruined by the presence of an infant. Like ND said, too many child-free people interpret child-free has never having to see a kid ever even in a kid-friendly place like a Disney movie or candy store.

    Alinea made a conscious decision to let the couple bring their infant into the restaurant. They did not have to. Legally, tickets are generally considered to be licenses to do something. The ticket vendor is usually under no legal obligation to honor them. This doesn’t happen a lot because it looks bad but it does happen.Report

  22. Tod Kelly says:

    Great post.

    Like a lot of other internet-fueled topics, I always have the feeling this argument takes a topic almost everyone is pretty much on the same page with and forces them into the ridiculous fringes. Ridiculous as in, a parent should be able to take their kid to any kind of social event, regardless of either the particulars of that event or the behavior of that child. Or, if you prefer, ridiculous as in a certain famous blogger who seriously argued that people who have children should never be allowed to travel by plane because if they did she might have to deal with them, and she prefers not having to deal with them. In fact, now that I think about it, both fringes are really the same argument: the entire planet should have to change the way it operates so they can get their way about everything.

    As a parent who’s been through two baby-hoods, I actually sympathize with the parents deciding, “wtf, let’s give it a shot” and bringing junior to Alinea. But as that same parent, I’m a little shocked that when it was immediately obvious it wasn’t going to work out, that decision wasn’t followed immediately by them apologizing to the staff and taking their leave. We certainly did that for more than our share of movies and dinners. (Though admittedly, not for a $500 dinner… although I also think knowing it was a $500 dinner would have made us more sensitive to everyone else, not less.)

    But if I may digress…

    I heard this topic on talk radio this morning, and my growing amazement is the part of this that I don’t see anyone discussing:

    The restaurant owner went on twitter to complain about customers in real time???!!!

    The only thing I can think of to explain this (other than the guy is an asshole who should stick to cooking and let others run the business end of the joint) is that in this world of reality food-tv celebs, long-term success is more about being famous than it is running a top 3-star restaurant.

    Young people trying to succeed in business who are reading this, if you learn nothing else from this controversy, learn this:

    Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever publicly mock or bitch about your customers. They are the only things in the world keeping your lights on.


    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Hey! I talked about this! And was told I was wrong!Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

        Because you were.

        Real time, he was soliciting advice with at “what do I do?” attitude. What he did not do was tweet: “Rude couple w/ screaming baby! How fast can I toss them out so food can go on? #DamnedKids”

        I still see him as having his hands in the air more than anything.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Oh… I still think I was probably wrong. Or wrongish. I don’t think the Tweet was the best idea in the world but on closer examination I don’t think it was as bas as I initially thought. I’m curious to see if Tod changes any minds.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever publicly mock or bitch about your customers. They are the only things in the world keeping your lights on.

      Is this particular complaint of his going to give him *LESS* business in the short run, though? He’s not exactly hurting for clinetelle and I can easily see his attitude resulting in more business for him given the type of people who are likely to drop money for dinner there.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      In fact, now that I think about it, both fringes are really the same argument: the entire planet should have to change the way it operates so they can get their way about everything


      Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever publicly mock or bitch about your customers. They are the only things in the world keeping your lights on.

      And I’ll go one step further; don’t publicly talk about your customer relations problems in any way that can be attributed or construed as being a bitch session.

      Like I said above, this didn’t really sound like a complaint to me, it sounded like an honest poll of friends, “Hey, everybody, whaddya think I outta do in this situation?” And I’m sympathetic to the idea that a lot of people think of Twitter as “me and buddies”.

      But you still have to be careful about how you say what you say. Bringing up restaurant policy, you should frame it as, “I’m thinking about restaurant policy”, not “Hey, this thing happened that’s making me think about restaurant policy”.Report

    • Pyre in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      His customers are supporting him.

      The people who go to these type of restaurants don’t want squalling kids around. Hell, if anything, this should serve as a wakeup call to parents. Just because society has tamed us to the point of not punching or even confronting the parents of a squalling snot monster doesn’t mean that we don’t want to. In a less self-centered society, people recognized that. People recognized that having a kid meant that you would eat at Chuck E. Cheese until your kid was old enough to behave. It was considered one of the sacrifices of having kids. This led to the added bonus that parents would actually take the time to teach their kids what is and is not acceptable behavior but that’s probably a different subject.

      The point is that every restaurant above and beyond IHOP-level that has banned kids gains more customers than they lose. To me, that pretty much settles the argument.

      Marketing 201: Sometimes you will get more business by excluding customers. Hell, if you’re smart, you can turn a dead amusement park into a gold mine with the right exclusionary policy.

      • Patrick in reply to Pyre says:

        Just because society has tamed us to the point of not punching or even confronting the parents of a squalling snot monster doesn’t mean that we don’t want to. In a less self-centered society, people recognized that.

        That speaks volumes. Irony unintended, I guess.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      For the lawyer, well, clients say the darnedest things sometimes! But I am careful to keep them anonymous and to change non-salient details enough that they will not likely recognize themselves.Report

  23. Kolohe says:

    If the full wrath of the State can come down on all parties when a parent orders their 20 year old kid a glass of wine at a restaurant, I don’t see how we as a society have any room to argue with a proprietor that doesn’t want to have people in their establishment one thirtieth that age.Report

    • Matty in reply to Kolohe says:

      Seriously, the full wrath of the state? Not just the waiter saying “I’m sorry you can’t have that” but outside involvement, from who, the police?

      I can understand age laws for alcohol consumption, though 21 is fishing ridiculous, but there is such a thing as a proportionate response.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Matty says:

        Just remember, when we’re talking about rules made by The State, it’s fair (necessary, even!) to point out that enforcement of those rules may theoretically escalate to the point of a Ruby Ridge style siege and shootout, thus making things like “No Turn on Red” signs morally the same as a mafia shakedown by implication.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Matty says:

        Well, anyone slips up, and someone or multiple people (including those that had nothing to do with the incident) lose their livelyhood, and everyone can charged with a crime that goes on the permanent record. The System needs to be fed. The underclass doesn’t create itself, you know.

        But yeah it’s not like ABC ever uses SWAT to go after underage drinking.

        oh, wait, they do

        (I mean, I guess a taser in not as bad as having your wife and kid shot. But it’s still kinda wrathful. As is having people point a gun at you telling you to hit the ground and shut up.)Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Kolohe says:

      I think you hit on the most important point. It really should not come down to what people want or expect, as much as it should matter what rules the proprietor wishes to set. Of course, those rules will determine who wishes to come to the establishment, and ultimately how successful it is. However, parents with kids do not have a right to eat at a restaurant any more than others have a right to eat without children around.Report

  24. Kazzy says:

    I’m curious… as many parents here have said, they routinely will try to determine if a restaurant is baby- or kid-friendly in advance. But do folks who don’t want to be around babies and kids… do any of them go out of their way to find out if the place they booked for dinner is baby- or kid-free? What obligation do they have to ensure the experience will be as they expected it?

    “Well I never! Children! At a Chuck E. Cheese of all places!”Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Kazzy says:

      I assure you some do. I know several such people. I like some things about them, but that I have to avoid thinking about so as to maintain respect for them.Report

    • Caroline in reply to Kazzy says:

      I honestly can’t say it would ever have occurred to me to contact a restaurant like Alinea and ask if they welcomed children. It ought to be obvious they don’t, in the same way that it’s obvious that children are welcome at Chuck E. Cheese, and I suspect these things would have safely gone without saying a few decades ago. I imagine that the chef had this same idea.

      I think it’s rather sad that it has come to the point where such things need to be spelled out. While @pyre may have used language objectionable to some, I completely agree that nobody needed to spell this out when I was growing up; it was understood that this was a part of the sacrifice you made as parents, educating your children about proper manners *at home*. Until such manners had been reliably mastered, we children didn’t see the inside of any restaurant other than HoJo’s or Friendly’s type (dating myself there) until we were around 10. My parents dined out in fine restaurants occasionally and hired babysitters. If babysitter cancelled, parents didn’t go. Obviously they would never have made a reservation at Alinea!

      As an earlier poster mentioned, I imagine this arrangement was easier on my parents as well, who were not, as @pyre said, so self-involved that they would not be mortified if their child/children disrupted someone else’s enjoyment of any event, whether it be a movie, dining out, flying, etc. through poor behavior.Report

  25. Rose Woodhouse says:

    I would not bring an 8 month old to Alinea. I have brought my kids to places on the more upscale side (but never Alinea level) in the knowledge that my kids were very well-behaved in public. This is before I had my third, who is a Tiny Reign of Terror – now we hesitate to bring him to Eggspectations. I would go at 5 pm, when few patrons were there, with the thought that I would remove the child instantly if he leaves. I pretty much never have a sitter who can care for my kids in the evening due to one of my kiddos’ special needs, and we are foodies. As it happens, a non-verbal, non-ambulatory, pleasantly-demeanored child is actually a great restaurant companion. So I don’t entirely agree with what you say; I do wish we were a bit more on the European model. About dogs, too. A compromise might be that snazzy restaurants had an expectation that really early hours like 5 are okay for children.Report

    • Yes on the dogs. (Down with health departments!)Report

      • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m all for dogs, at least outside, but “down with health departments”?

        Man, not if you’d seen the video from the pizza joint near my wife’s place of business.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yeah, I just got back from a trip to Burkina Faso (my brother is in the Peace Corps, so I visited over Xmas) and I have never appreciated sanitation more. Dogs in a restaurant is fine, but let’s not go overboard here.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        The one with the delivery guy who abandoned his dog out front for 1000 years?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        I strongly oppose dogs in restaurants. I’m afraid of dogs. Not as bad as it used to be nor as bad as others, but I am generally uncomfortable around dogs. If a particular restaurant wants to be a haven for dog owners and their mutts, so be it: I’ll stay away or steal my reserves in advance. But if I’m enjoying my burrito at Chipotle and you bring in some slobbering behemoth, I’m going to be pissed.Report

      • There are two kinds of people. There’s the kind of person who, when a favorite place to eat is closed down by the health department, says “Oh my god, what have I been eating?!” There’s the other kind of person who, under the same circumstances, says “Dammit.”

        When this happened to me, I said “dammit.”

        That said, I do support the existence of health departments and a degree of sanitation assurance. I don’t like dogs being a part of the equation (sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t and are banned just because establishment owners don’t want them. There is also the case of food trucks and I’m not sure if I would support the degree of regulation that we have (or maybe I would, I’m genuinely not sure).Report

      • There are two kinds of people. There’s the kind of person who, when a favorite place to eat is closed down by the health department, says “Oh my god, what have I been eating?!” There’s the other kind of person who, under the same circumstances, says “Dammit.”

        I’m probably more the second kind of person.Report

    • Kim in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      Why not 4pm? That gives you an hour (or an hour and a half to eat), and doesn’t inconvenience others. Call it “family time.”Report

    • Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      Wait, there’s a place called Eggspectations?Report

    • I agree that the Euros have several advantages to us. In casual restaurants, your well-behaved dog is welcome to rest under the table, especially if dining on the patio. Your well-behaved child has a place at the table — and no kid’s menu, as your well-behaved child is expected to eat as well as act like any other patron. You are also free to linger as long as you wish, and indeed more or less expected to relax and enjoy the wine and desserts and a digestif for three or more hours, even for a casual meal. This is what you are doing for the night.

      There is an expectation that your dog and your child will be well-behaved. If not, the expectation is that they aren’t going to be out in public in the first place. I have difficulty seeing any tolerance whatsoever, and only slightly less difficulty imagining someone requesting an accommodation for, an eight-month-old sitting on Mom’s lap at Le Torre D’Argent.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I would assume that a dog would be fine on the patio at an American restaurant. Am I mistaken in that?Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        In some places. I’d venture to say that a majority of mid-range restaurants would exclude dogs even if on an outdoor patio. Some people freak out around dogs.

        See also, patrons claiming disabilities necessitating service animals. A shockingly ill-defined area of the law pregnant for cynical abuse — my friend and colleague who had the wine tasting event I described in the OP pretty accurately summarizes this part of the law as “the honor system.”Report

      • Patrick in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Dog-friendly restaurants are a regional thing.Report

      • My experience is that most mid-range places (e.g., a really excellent brewpub) are pretty accommodating of dogs as long as they have a patio. You just need to make a point of having one of you go ask the host if it’s ok with the person holding the dog standing at a polite distance. I’ve found that about 70% of the time, the dog is welcome. A lot of times, they’ll even put out a bowl for the dog.

        In Europe, though, the (far more well-behaved than the average American dog) dogs are usually allowed inside the restaurant, which very very few American restaurants would even consider.

        And they are VERY well-behaved. Embarrassing story time – I once (very) clumsily and accidentally stepped on a German Shepherd’s tail in a heuriger in Vienna. The dog let out the tiniest whimper you can imagine, so tiny that I don’t think the owner even heard it, much less know what happened. I reflexively and repetitiously said “Entschuldigung, Entschuldigung,” but the owner acted like nothing had happened, acting more like he didn’t have a clue what the hell this American idiot was apologizing for (insert joke here about how he was mostly just shocked to hear an American apologizing for something). If that were my dog…..suffice to say the entire restaurant’s evening would have been ruined.Report

        • In my experience, brewpubs are very friendly to dogs on the patio, but draw the line at the door of the building. But, I have been in one or two that were not dog friendly at all. This has always mystified. How can you work on a fun place like a brewpub, and not want to pet and love on a customer’s adorable dog? But, if you had a bad experience with a dog growing up, or grew up in a household and neighborhood where dogs were uncommon, then there Mere presence will make you feel uncomfortable even if all they do is lay down. (Of course, when dogs first meet people at the house, they are excited, and behave in ways that people who are unfamiliar with dogs interpret as threatening.) We have friends who are like this; on those occasions when we have them to our house socially, we’ve learned to leave our dogs out in the back yard and entertain indoors.Report

  26. Michael Drew says:

    This just seems like a basic cost of the ticket approach to reservations if the price is that high. If the restaurant doesn’t want kids or infants (or anything else) joining the patrons at the tables, they damn well better clearly state as much at the point where they collect your three benjamins for a chair to put your a$$ in. And if they don’t, then they should expect whatever damn things the patrons want to show up with hanging around the tables – kids, parrots, llamas, you name it – or at least they should have been expecting to be constantly engaged in turning people who’ve bought tickets who bring those things with them away at the door, and explaining in person why they’ll be keeping their $275 nevertheless, thankyouverymuch. People with $500, $800, $1100 dollars sunk into just being able to show up and pay for a meal are going to seek to actually be served said meal whatever the obstacles. That’s what you’re buying when you start charging those rates for tickets to your restaurant.

    Now, if the tweet really was just soliciting ideas how to structure the policy that will address this oversight, then I think clearly the backlash was misplaced (even if I personally think still understandable). But let there be no doubt that the basic issue here was a failure on the part of the restaurant to anticipate a perfectly foreseeable complication in the ticketing scheme.Report

    • This. I’d wager that, while this is the first time the problem has manifested itself in this manner, it is far from the first time that the policy has caused problems. I wonder how many people have shown up in the throes of the flu, or how many people have angrily forfeit the $500, etc. As stated above, a place like this should have no problem whatsoever creating an emergency wait-list that they can turn to if they get a late cancellation, with the original ticket-holders getting a rain-check once their spot is filled.Report

  27. Angela says:

    Here’s a recent addition from your neck of the woods:

    As showtime approached, the PA system came on with the usual request that the audience refrain from recording, photographing, texting or chitchatting on their phones, and that they unwrap their hard candies NOW. Then the lights came down … and the mezzanine, where I was sitting, filled with the sound of a baby yowling.
    Yes, that’s right. The Ahmanson on a Saturday night admitted a patron with an infant who proceeded to gurgle, coo, and squeal inside the hall, ruining half the show for hundreds of paying playgoers. Until intermission, when the complaints rolled in, the management did nothing.

    Written policy? Check. No Exceptions? Check. Still a problem? Of course…..
    So, what’s the solution?

    [Mike S: I reformatted a bit to make the link work. Long, complicated URLs work better as values of <a href=””>, since the quotes stop them from being split incorrectly.]Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Angela says:

      Bringing a baby to a play is just plain rude, since it disturbs the actors as well as the audience, and thus ruins the entire performance. I can see taking a baby to a movie if you’re prepared to remove him into the lobby if necessary, but a live performance? No.

      (Disclaimer: when I took my older son and some of his friends to Toy Story when it first came out, I also brought my daughter, who was 2 1/2, thinking that if she got restless I’d take her somewhere else until it ended. Actually, she was entranced, and that started a tradition of taking all the kids to Pixar movies that lasted for about a decade. )Report

  28. woobytoodsday says:

    Evidently it wasn’t a couple, it was a baby at a table for four. Baby was good for about an hour before howling commenced. Woman (mother?) holding baby was told it was being a problem and could she do something about it? She retired to the bathroom for a bit, came back, baby continued. There *was* no no-babies rule. There still is not. The chef/restaurant seems *exceeding* communicative with its patrons, and was not consulted ahead of time.

    Mother of two, had one who was never a problem to take anywhere from the day he was born; the other was a problem, always.

    $500? On food???? Easy: 4 oz can of Petrossian Ossetra. Easily the most memorable night of my life, regarding food, involved a hotel dining room in China, a French host, and a little cooler full of small blue cans. Lightly toasted homemade bread, sweet cream butter, shaved onion, lemon quarters. . . .Report

  29. Damon says:

    I’ve eaten at a lot of high priced resturants and I’ve never seen or heard an infant. We took my neice, who was 6 to a place in Italy that was high priced, but she was well behaved, even on the flight over and back, but she is and was an bit of a naturally good kid.

    I’d never consider bringing an infant to a resturant described above, if only because I’d want to ensure I enjoyed the food and ambiance and not have to deal with a screaming infant.

    As to those parents who seem clueless about which places are appropriate for children, well, this is one reason I dislike much of humanity….Report