Keeping kids out of cafes
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.