Handling Children in Pubs

New parents these days – many of them millennials who are balancing families and careers – are more willing to fit their kids into their lifestyles, instead of giving up their interests to raise kids in the seclusion of the suburbs. Sometimes, that means taking their children with them to beer gardens, pubs, and taprooms while they meet up with friends to enjoy a pint or two.

Yet, parents who bring their children to bars can find themselves at odds with non-parents who aren’t in the mood to sympathize with crying kids. They may even face scrutiny from fellow parents who’ve left their own kids at home to enjoy a child-free evening. In these cases, at least one party’s experience is usually negatively affected to the point they might rethink ever coming back. Obviously this is a situation customers and business owners alike want to avoid, but it can be incredibly difficult to please every person who visits an establishment, especially if they expect such different experiences.

Whether the owner and patrons of a business feel there’s an issue with children in bars depends on a number of factors, including the establishment’s location, desired clientele, and operating hours. For example, a large pub that caters to families in the neighborhood sets different expectations for its customers than a small craft beer bar. When handling the potential controversy of children in bars, operators like those of the bars discussed below are often tasked with balancing the desires of their patrons with the needs of their businesses and may have to deal with at least a little fallout from their decisions.

A Ban on Babies

The Hopleaf Bar in Chicago has a strict 21 and up policy, which is displayed on its website’s front page: “Hopleaf is an adult venue – everyone must be 21 or over with valid ID to enter. Sorry: children (including infants) will not be admitted.” This policy has led to more than a few disgruntled customers, some of whom have taken to Yelp to voice their complaints; others have penned entire articles dedicated to why they don’t like the policy.

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Author and former Hopleaf fan Justin Shady opined in Chicago Mag, “To be fair, there are restrictions I believe a restaurant has a right to enforce. …But no kids? Like, no one under 21 at all, ever? For a restaurant that serves food? Why?”

A commenter identifying himself as Michael Roper, the owner of Hopleaf, responded directly to the article to answer Shady’s questions and defend the bar’s policy.

“We have always had some who have complained about the policy. However, they have been vastly outnumbered by those who support it, including many parents. Many parents who’ve hired a baby sitter for a date night out appreciate that they will be in an adult venue without crying infants, temper tantrums or kids running in the aisles. Some kids behave, some don’t. We don’t want to be in the position of sorting them out. Then there is the issue of what kids to let in. Infants but not toddlers, teens but not babies, or over 12, or 16 or 18. Whatever we chose, there will be even more controversy.”

– Michael Roper, owner of The Hopleaf Bar

A Curfew for Kids

Some operators trying to accommodate diners with kids and those without may not be willing to commit to a total ban on anyone under the age of 21. Another option is to set a kid curfew that allows all ages into the business until a certain time. That time tends to vary from one business to another, since a bar that caters to employees in the area may want to be adults-only after 5 p.m. but a neighborhood beer garden may let kids and their parents hang out until later in the evening.

In 2012, the tension between parents and child-free customers in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood was described as a “turf war.” That year, Greenwood Park, a newly opened 13,000-square-foot bar with indoor and outdoor space, found itself in the middle of the controversy. Advertised as a family-friendly restaurant, bar, and beer garden, the business was inundated with Yelp reviews bemoaning the number of apparently unsupervised children on the premises. When a 4 p.m. kid curfew was put into place, those reviews were replaced by negative reviews from displeased parents who were no longer able to enjoy the space.

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According to the Greenwood Park website, the business’s policy has now settled somewhere in the middle: Though still self-described as family friendly, all patrons must be 21 and up after 7 p.m. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has led to at least one angry Yelp review from a customer who felt she and her child were rudely rushed out of the place as the designated curfew time drew near.

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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