Metro Morning

Fine dining restaurants should have right to ban young children, writer and mother says

A Toronto journalist, mother of one and former restaurant server is advocating that fine dining restaurants in the city should have the right to ban young children.

Tanya Enberg says some dining establishments are just not suitable places for kids

Tanya Enberg, writer, mother, former server, says restaurant owners should have the right to ban young children if they choose. It's common sense, she argues. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

A Toronto journalist, mother of one and former restaurant server is advocating that fine dining restaurants in the city should have the right to ban young children.

Tanya Enberg, who worked as a server 15 years ago, recently wrote an article in Today's Parent arguing that elegant restaurants should have age restrictions if they choose.

Restaurants are in the business of providing dining experiences and those experiences need not include misbehaving children, she wrote.

Enberg told Metro Morning she firmly believes some restaurants should be for adults only. The suggestion is not discriminatory, but common sense, and there is no need to let children run the show, she said.

"I feel that there are so many places where kids are welcome and there's that very few where they are not really welcome and fine dining restaurants ought to be one of them," Enberg said Monday.
Tanya Enberg speaks on CBC's Metro Morning. The writer, mother and former restaurant server says children don't need to run the show. (CBC)

"I know when I want a break from my child, who is four, I certainly don't want to bring him to a fine dining restaurant where I'm out to relax, maybe have a date with my husband or a night out with girlfriends, and I appreciate that other diners may not want to be around a young child of that age who is still developing emotionally."

Her article followed a ban by Caruso's, a upscale Italian restaurant in Mooresville, North Carolina that asked a family with a young girl to leave after the parents refused to turn down the sound of an iPad.

The incident prompted the restaurant owner to ban children under the age of five altogether. The decision has sparked much debate.

Enberg, as a diner and as a former server at burger joints, neighbourhood pubs, breakfast places and high end bistros, said she saw a wide array of behaviour that raised her eyebrows.

"The mild stuff is the food throwing or temper tantrums, not wanting to be in the restaurant, perhaps not having the attention span because young children often don't have the attention span to sit through longer meals, running through restaurants while servers are carrying hot plates and coffees or alcoholic drinks, playing with glassware in the server stand, which is going to be passed onto the next customer," she said.

Restaurant owners should decide

"The most shocking, as a diner, was a little boy, about six, who went scootering through a really large pub in my neighbourhood. The waitress didn't know what to do. The parents didn't care."

Enberg said the issue involves having consideration for adult patrons, without children in tow, who are spending money on their evening out, who may have paid for a babysitter themselves, and it involves realizing that the food on the menu may not even be suitable for young children. 

"Do you really want to spend $25, $35, $40 on prime rib, lobster, steak for a child under five anyhow?" she said.

The bottom line, Enberg said, is it should be up to restaurant owners to decide whether or not to ban children, and if so, at what age. If restaurants are not child friendly, it will be obvious, she said.

"If you are seeing candlelight, tablecloths, cloth napkins and a price point that may be a little more substantial, those are great indicators. There may not be a children's menu. No crayons, no colouring books. Often these restaurants won't have baby change stations." 

Enberg said she feels strongly about her position, even though she has already received some negative responses on Facebook.

"We all think our children are angels but we all know they are all capable of not being angels," she said.

"I can appreciate that we all need a break. There are few spots where adults can talk with other adults uninterrupted."


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