A small eatery in the London suburb of Buckhurst Hill called The Organic Kitchen is the latest restaurant to garner international attention for its no-children policy. After being open for just three months, the tiny ten-table establishment decided to post a sign on the front door announcing an outright ban on “children under five,” and it also axed strollers – or at the Brits call them, “prams and buggies.”
Full disclosure: I am a father of a 9-month-old and live in the UK, so I certainly hope what you’re about to read doesn’t become a growing trend… at least for another four years and three months – after which I would probably welcome it with open arms. It’s amazing how quickly your opinion on allowing kids in restaurants can completely change!
Adam Penning, who opened the restaurant with his wife, told the BBC the move was partially made for safety reasons. “It is a small intimate dining experience and when you get to a stage when your aisles are clogged with buggies and pushchairs, that is a concern because we do table service as a restaurant,” he said. “When you have waitresses and waiters having to step over buggies while carrying boiling water it is a serious health and safety issue.” Uh, how much boiling water is this restaurant serving people? And why??
However, Penning also said that it appears some locals… let’s just say… aren’t as concerned about safety. “The biggest surprise has been the vehemence and vitriol in the backlash against a policy which was taken for various reasons,” he was quoted as saying. “It seems to have brought some of the worst out of local people.” Penning said his wife has been accosted on the street. And of course, people on the Internet have been happy to openly express their opinions. “It has stirred up a hornets' nest,” Penning stated.
Despite all the controversy though, The Organic Kitchen is standing by its policy. It reiterated the position in a long Facebook posting today. “We have made this decision for the comfort of all of our clients and as a result of this the overwhelming reaction from the vast majority of our customers has been extremely positive,” the restaurant stated. As can be expected, the post was met with a mix of positive and negative responses.
But the larger truth is that the “no children in restaurants” debate is one of those issues that will rage on forever for the simple reason that kids don’t stay kids forever, and the exact same people who needed to bring their kids to a restaurant when those children were younger are the same people who need peace and quiet the most once those kids can watch after their damn selves.