Children, Dogs and Restaurants…

In recent weeks there have been several stories about restaurants electing to ban children. The most recent being a Sushi restaurant in Virginia. Here in Michigan, a bill was introduced to allow dogs inside the fences at outdoor cafes and restaurants. Both of these stories have raised some questions.

Dog owners are lauding the efforts to allow fido to join them while they dine, or have a cocktail at outdoor eateries. Some restaurant owners are excited to expand their clientele by allowing pet owners that are out walking a chance to come in and enjoy their establishment.

Some parents are up in arms over the idea that some restaurants are electing to have an adults-only (not of the naughty kind), environment. They call it “unfair”, that they cannot take their children to this particular Sushi bar. Many have taken to Facebook and other social media sites to vent their frustration.

To me, both of these situations come down to a matter of choice, and the beauty of free enterprise, and a market driven economy.

First, the banning of children. There are those who say that it is unfair that they cannot bring their toddler, or tween along to whatever restaurant they please. In one article, this quote appeared:

“’I love how you angry old jerks cry and cry about “little kids”… I know, let’s stop giving the world a bounty of future scientists, presidents, astronauts, doctors, humanitarians, aid workers, etc. – and for the sad cases where one IS born, let’s keep them locked inside,’ one furious parent commented.”

Seems a bit off the deep end if you ask me, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. At the same time, the restaurant owner has said that business has actually been on the rise. So, here is my take. As a father of four, my wife and I frequently took our children out to restaurants when they were younger. We taught them at an early age that they needed to behave, not disturb other people who were eating, and keep their voices down. Sadly, some parents either don’t teach this to their children, or don’t teach it effectively. Many has been the time that my table has been visited by some child who has wandered from their parents’ table, and who is running amok. We have had our meal disturbed by the tantrum of a child who doesn’t like what’s being offered, and whose parents don’t have the good sense to take them outside to gain control of the situation.

My wife and I are not usually put off by a crying baby. In fact, we usually smile at the obviously-frustrated parents and assure them that it really is “worth it” to struggle through for that occasional night out. We have certainly been there. We also know that there comes a time when the screaming child just isn’t going to calm down, so you cut your losses and enjoy the rest of the meal at home.

If you have children, and you want to have a night out, there are literally thousands of places you can go. I don’t know the area in Virginia where this particular Sushi Bar is located, but my guess is that even there parents can find many alternatives, including other Sushi restaurants.

I am also certain that there are a number of people who would not only prefer a child-free environment, but would be willing to pay a premium for the opportunity to have a quiet dinner. Some might even be parents who have shelled out cash for a baby sitter, and are looking for an escape from children.

For us, we usually don’t care much if there are children around while we eat, even the occasionally rambunctious kind. But, there are special occasions when we’d like that bit of extra quiet, and a child-free restaurant would be just the ticket.

To listen to the vitriol from the people (like the one I quoted above), you would think that ALL restaurants had elected to ban children. If you feel that strongly about it, then just go somewhere else.

Now, as for dogs, I am not a dog owner because I have pretty severe dog allergies. My next door neighbor, and many of my friends can attest that I like dogs very much, they just tend to make my eyes swell shut and make me sneeze uncontrollably if I pet them.

If the law should pass in Michigan allowing outdoor restaurants the ability to choose whether or not to allow dogs, I will be paying close attention. If I want to eat outdoors, I will be seeking one that does NOT allow dogs. Not because I am anti-dog, but because I would prefer not to have to deal with  the potential allergy issue. Like parents, dog owners come in all varieties, and will have a similar bell curve when it comes to whether their pooch is controlled and quiet, or a nuisance. For me, it won’t be worth the risk, and I will go elsewhere.

My point in all this is that we have choices in this country. If you want a restaurant that is kid free, or one that is dog-friendly, and one is in your area – go there. Support that business. If you think that children should be allowed anywhere, or that dogs should be left at home, then choose accordingly. But, in either case, don’t force your view and attitude on others. As I like to say, in this economic system we have, you get to vote EVERY DAY with your wallet. You can choose to support, or avoid any business you like.

And if you don’t like it, there is no need to take to the airwaves, print up signs and have a protest. As long as the establishment isn’t breaking the law, then what business is it of yours how they, and their customers, elect to do business? Use your economic power to go elsewhere. I can guarantee, if there is not a market for adult-only, or dog-friendly restaurants, they will close up shop. And, if there is a market, then they will flourish.

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2 Responses to Children, Dogs and Restaurants…

  1. Dana says:

    Rock on!


  2. Mary Sample says:

    Bob, I so agree with you on all counts, there have been many times when we’ve come across both situations, as a parent I don’t think anyone can say their child hasn’t caused some sort of scene at sometime, its how the situation was handled that made the difference, and as the owner of a large dog, I am happy to get away from Charley at a restaurant. Again my choice, it’s bad enough that he drools when we are eating at home, can’t even imagine what it would be like if he went to a restaurant with us. There’s a time and a place for everything, and a choice whether or not to take the child/or dog. great post.


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