Opinion

Yes, it's OK to ask noisy families to leave a restaurant

Emma Waverman is an advocate for kid-friendly restaurants—but sometimes it's OK to ask people to leave.

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Photo: iStockphoto

I feel bad for the management at The Lobster Pound and Moore in North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Last week, the seafood restaurant posted a new policy on Facebook that said “small screaming children” would not be allowed at their restaurant. The Facebook post stated: “We are an adult-themed restaurant that caters to those that enjoy food and are out to enjoy themselves. We understand this may upset some, but after careful consideration, we feel it’s best for those [who] enjoy, appreciate and understand our business.” The backlash was swift and, by the next day, the post was removed (but screen captures of the message appeared on various news outlets).

A long apology went up in its place which read, in part:

“First, my apologies for my previous post. I chose the wrong words to convey a message I didn’t want. I love kids and would have them if I could. I shouldn’t have used the word ‘screaming’ but should have said something like ‘Lil diners having a moment.’” It goes on: “I never considered the hate and threats it would bring against not only me but those I love and for that I’m truly sorry.”

While the story garnered international attention, not all the feedback has been negative, with some (including other parents) applauding the restaurant’s initial stance on “no screaming children”.

It might seem surprising because I’m a vocal advocate for kid-friendly restaurants, but I also have sympathy for the management and staff at The Lobster Pound and Moore. I did a segment on CBC Radio’s Q a few years ago arguing that restaurants shouldn’t be allowed to outright ban children. However, I do think restaurants reserve the right to ask overly noisy patrons to leave—whether they are adults or children.

My argument on Q was, and still is, that you can’t assume all children behave poorly. And sometimes, a table full of beer-chugging friends can also be disruptive. Unfortunately, when it’s kids who are acting up, people tend to mutter under their breath about bad parenting and how children shouldn’t be brought to restaurants.

My husband and I were once refused entry at a local pub because we had our sleeping infant daughter with us. They had a “no children” policy after 8:00 p.m.—but it was only 6:30 when we’d arrived. We didn’t go back for years. The irony was that we’d previously eaten there with our toddler and an elderly couple seated nearby sent us some wine as a thank-you for reminding them of their grandson.

I took my kids to lots of restaurants when they were infants and toddlers. Sometimes we’d have to abandon a meal partway through because the kids were acting like monsters. Other times, we’ve been annoyed by children seated at a nearby table. But that’s life. People can be annoying, loud and rude—whether it’s complete strangers or your own relatives.

That’s why I think the management at The Lobster Pound and Moore has a right to ask loud patrons to leave, regardless of whether they are adults or children. Yes, they could have worded their Facebook message better. A general statement about how they reserve the right to remove loud customers of all ages may have gone over better with some people. I’m just not sure that the international pro-parenting police should have jumped all over them for one misguided comment.

The debate on kids in restaurants will continue as long as there are parents who want to enjoy a meal outside of their home as a family. And I will continue to defend their right to do so. One day, I plan to pay it forward and send a bottle of wine to a couple with young children, just to tell them that they’re doing a great job.

And, if I’m ever in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, I just might go to The Lobster Pound and Moore—but I’ll make sure my family keeps our voices down.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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