Should businesses be allowed to ban kids?

(Reprinted and edited with permission from

Outdoors at McDain's

McDain's Restaurant

Would you take a toddler to an evening at the ballet? A cocktail lounge? The library  (excluding the children’s section)? If your answer is “yes,” perhaps you should  think twice about it. And if one of those venues were to say, “Sorry, no small  children allowed,” would you understand?

If your answer is “yes,” or even “maybe,” then why shouldn’t a restaurant have the  right to do the same thing? That’s exactly what McDain’s Restauarant in Monroeville,  Pennsylvania did starting a few weeks ago. While some folks think it’s unfair,  we believe that when you decide to become a parent, you have to accept the  drawbacks along with the advantages.

When I go to a local salad bar restaurant, I expect that we’ll be waiting in line while parents negotiate  what stuff goes on the kids’ plates, dodging kids all over the place at the  dessert bar, and listening to loud – if not screaming – kids at the next table.  It goes with the territory.

But when my wife and I go out for a pleasant – even a romantic – evening, we feel we’re entitled to not be harassed, harangued or hectored by a rampaging romper room refugee. Mike Vuick, McDain’s proprietor, said that he had to draw the line at age six for diners, because his
staff would often get dirty looks when asking patrons to control their offspring. “I decided that someone had to dig their heels in on behalf of all
these frustrated customers on this issue, so I did.” The result? McDain’s is drawing new customers.

As one patron put it, “We decided to go out to dinner to a place where we can enjoy ourselves without being assaulted by the screams of
kids.” According to a Today show report by NBC’s Janet Shamlian, several movie theatres are banning kids, PG-13 and R ratings be damned. And no more infants in first class on Malaysia Airlines.

Parenting expert Michelle Borba explains the change in attitude this way: “Way back when, it was, ‘Kids should be seen but not heard,’ and we stressed obedience. Right now it’s more connection with our kids. That’s the good news. But we’re also a little less likely to say, “No.”

But why are businesses becoming less tolerant of boisterous babes? “27 million couples have decided not to have kids,” says pop culture expert Lola Ogunnaike, on Today. “They call them DINKS – “Dual Income, No Kids.” Well, guess what. They also have a lot of disposable income. And marketers are waking up and realizing, ‘Hey, this is a segment of society that’s not being addressed.’”

In a survey, we asked parents this question:

“What would you think of the idea of designated childfree zones for people who would rather be in environments where there are only adults (examples: restaurant sections, movie theatres, park areas)?” (We wish we had left out the word “sections” when referring to restaurants.) The result was that 62.5 percent of the parents were fine with the idea and only 22 percent felt “no way.” The rest were not sure. So acceptance of this type of policy seems to be fairly reasonable to parents of toddlers.

If you are going to have children, you should assume responsibility for the inconveniences that entails, including the inconvenience to others. We should all, at the very least make an effort  to get along and accommodate each other. But just as it goes without saying that people without children need to accommodate those with kids on a regular basis, having kids means that parents need to consider potential inconvenience to others before schlepping their offspring just about anywhere on a whim.