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The trend is ruffling some feathers

Maria Yagoda
November 01, 2017

On Tuesday, a Tampa Bay craft beer bar and pizzeria stuck a controversial sign on its doors. It read: "NO CHILDREN."

No, the owners of Hampton Station were not advertising their love of the classic Mountain Goats song; rather, they were implementing an informal kids ban. The backlash was extraordinary, reports WKRG.

"I definitely think that sales are gonna take a dip,” Hampton Station owner Troy Taylor told WKRG. "We had an incident last week where some kids were endangering themselves and others. I haven’t got much sleep the past four or five days really, because of this. ‘Cause this is my livelihood."

Taylor later told the Miami Herald that his concerns about the restaurant's proximity to a busy highway motivated the ban, not necessarily loud noises or smashed crayons. "A kid was in danger and could have seriously been hurt," he said. "It’s a liability and safety issue. After the incident, I thought, this can’t happen again."

Many parents didn't see the ban this way, but rather as a nasty attack on families. One Yelp user Lisa G. commented on the restaurant's page, "Shame because used to be one of our favorites. Won't be back with or without our well behaved youngster!" Matt K. wrote, "No children. All caps. The biggest font, at the top of the door. All after gladly accepting money from families for two years. Rude."

Many Yelp users, however, praised the move. Jess J. wrote, "Hooray to the owners of this place for standing up to a society which says we have to tolerate poorly behaved children. and their absent-minded parents."

Hampton Station isn't the first restaurant to draw ire (and praise) for implementing such a ban. In March, upscale Mooresville, N.C. restaurant Caruso’s banned children under the age of 5.

“Banning children has always been a topic in the industry and every owner says, ‘I wish I could do it,’” manager Yoshi Nunez told The Washington Post. “Our owner has the full support of the staff. We work here to make a living, too, and we support our owner 100 percent.” Nunez said that after owner, Pasquale Caruso, announced the ban, reservations spiked, going from 50 to 80 diners a day.  

Over the past few years, bars and restaurants around the world have implemented gentle to strict children bans, sometimes with weirdly specific parameters. In 2013, Houston's La Fisheria banned children under 8 after 7 p.m. In 2014, Old Fisherman's Grotto in Monterey, California discouraged the attendance of babies not by enforcing an explicit ban, but by barring the use of strollers and high chairs in the restaurant. 

Two food writers with children have mixed feelings about kid bans.

"I'm okay with banning kids, as long as it’s clear on the website, so I don’t feel like an idiot for trying to bring mine," says Regan Stephens. "I just feel like there wouldn’t be a need if parents were thoughtful: went to early bird dinners, engaged with their kids, left if there were meltdowns, etc."

Naomi Tomky, who says that children bans are a restaurant's perogative, agrees that going early is one of the best ways to eat out with kids. "If I pay for a babysitter to go somewhere nice for a late, romantic dinner," she says, "I do not want to be next to your kids."

Dining out with kids doesn't have to be chaos. Here, we spoke with restaurants about how to make it work.