Keep­ing kids out of cafes

Nelson Mail - - Opinion -

There’s no ques­tion that the de­ci­sion to ex­clude chil­dren from the Abbey Road Burg­ers Bar & Cafe was a bold one. But now that it’s out there, there will be restau­rant and cafe owners happy that some­one has come out and said it. Where Fabian Pri­oux has led, oth­ers will be keen to fol­low. And ev­ery­where, par­ents will be qui­etly hold­ing their heads in their hands and think­ing, why are we the en­emy?

Kids can be messy, and it can be hard to put a lid on their en­thu­si­asm. Even chil­dren raised with mil­i­tary-style dis­ci­pline can’t sit on their hands all day. Typ­i­cally, chil­dren lack the at­ten­tion span to sit and make po­lite con­ver­sa­tion over a cap­puc­cino. Of course, when it de­scends to van­dal­ism, then it’s clearly un­ac­cept­able.

With­out the ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning a cafe, it’s hard to know whether the per­cent­age of these feral chil­dren be­ing set loose in these es­tab­lish­ments is suf­fi­cient to be a gen­uine con­cern. It’s more likely that truly wild chil­dren are a fringe oc­cur­rence. Chil­dren can, and do, blend in seam­lessly with a cafe crowd.

It is ev­ery cafe owner’s pre­rog­a­tive to shape their au­di­ence. In the past, cafes have ex­cluded breast­feed­ing moth­ers, any­one wear­ing ly­cra and even trades­peo­ple, for fear that it may up­set or alien­ate their other pa­trons. Equally, though, plenty of cafes and restau­rants go out of their way to ac­com­mo­date these groups.

In the case of kids, it usu­ally just means hav­ing high chairs on hand and cre­at­ing a durable space for them to in­habit and en­ter­tain them­selves away from adult din­ers.

Pa­trons will vote with their feet, and those who don’t wish to share their din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with the younger crowd can now be con­fi­dent there’s at least one place they can go where that won’t be a prob­lem.

Still, you have to feel for par­ents. They don’t want to com­pletely write off go­ing to cafes and restau­rants for the 12 or so years it takes for their off­spring to be ac­cept­able cafe com­pany.

The way Fabian Pri­oux has framed it, New Zealand par­ents in gen­eral are re­spon­si­ble for him not want­ing to have chil­dren at his es­tab­lish­ment.

It’s hard for moth­ers and fa­thers not to feel judged on their par­ent­ing skills when they take their chil­dren out in pub­lic. Even if you have a pre-con­ver­sa­tion about the sort of be­hav­iour that’s ex­pected of them, all bets are off once they get in­side.

Whether it’s a su­per­mar­ket melt­down or a down­town es­cape bid, try­ing to reel kids back in is a con­spic­u­ous busi­ness, and it al­ways feels like there is a roughly even mix of pity­ing and dis­ap­prov­ing looks be­ing fired in your di­rec­tion. Few if any par­ents make a con­scious choice to let their kids run riot when­ever they’re away from home.

Ul­ti­mately, though, it’s well within Mr Pri­oux’s rights to have who­ever he wants din­ing at his cafe. Par­ents and non-par­ents can peace­fully co-ex­ist, though, so it would be sad to think that this sort of think­ing could be­come the pre­vail­ing at­ti­tude.

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