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The Smackdown: Should Parents Bring Their Kids into Bars?

By cole gamble |

Most Mommies and Daddies need a drink now and then. If Mad Men has taught us anything it’s good little boys and girls know how to mix dear old dad a good Bloody Mary. Whether you’re a drinker or a teetotaler, everyone has different rules when it comes to the combination of alcohol and kids. Some people are okay with having a couple glasses of wine while the kids are about; other won’t touch the stuff until the kids are snug in bed.

Then there’s going out. Would you take your toddler to a bar? Two bloggers butt heads in this Smackdown.

Blogger Julieanne Smolinski took the con route, arguing:

  • Ask yourself, “is this a place where food is secondary?” If you’re there just for drinks, it’s probably not appropriate.
  • Servers are accustomed to dealing with kids; bartenders are not and will likely get pissed.
  • You come off as one of those parents who want desperately to hang onto your hip, insouciantly youthful ways.
  • Bars are full of profanity and possibly smoke.
  • The childless come to bars to have a good time; your screaming kids don’t factor into that.
  • Your kid demanding to go pee really kills libido when flirting with a guy.
  • Let’s not forget the safety issue. Not just driving; think about your drunken butt tripping over the kid’s stroller.

(Full disclosure, Julieanne is a single woman and thus has great self interest in keeping all you breeders and your brood out of her Happy Hour good times.)

Now here comes Tom Henderson with the reasons why he should be allowed to bring his kids to the pub.

  • If state law allows you to take your kids in the bar, the case should be closed right there.
  • Twenty-somethings who don’t want to listen to your kids scream can go elsewhere.
  • “Who the heck cares if there’s an infant around” (um, everybody)
  • There are far more objectionable people in a bar than your kid.
  • People who complain they can’t hear themselves over your babies cries should realize no one wants to hear what they’re “blubbering about” either.
  • If the kid makes a fuss, the parents can always escort the kid outside.

My Take: Though I have kids, I have to side with the not-bringing-them-to-the-bar contingent. When I was childless I wanted a law that prohibited parents from bringing their kids to restaurants, bars, movie theaters (I.E. anywhere people go to have a good time) for the first 5 years of said child’s life. Since having kids, I’ve relaxed my position a little, but I still try to keep my kids from situations in which they will encroach on strangers trying to enjoy themselves.

Something about Tom’s “whiny twenty-somethings can take a hike” stance reeks of the sense of entitlement many parents adopt. The message, “hey, I’m keeping the human race going by procreating, therefore my wants and needs come before you lowly non-breeders.”

Also, the legal argument doesn’t hold water. Just because it’s legal to do something doesn’t mean it’s a cool thing to do. It’s not illegal for me to run around a restaurant bellowing “Frere Jacque” and butting into strangers’ conversations with “That’s what she said!” but it would still be a douche maneuver.

(Full disclosure: I live in a state where kids aren’t legally allowed to go into bars, so it’s kind of a non-issue for me.)

What about you? Do you take your kids out for a drink? Do you recoil in horror when you see post-hipster parents scuttle their brood into the bar when you’re just trying to have a drink?

Source: Parentdish


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About cole gamble


cole gamble

Cole Gamble is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He's working on an evil self-help guide titled Improve Your Life or Die.

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22 thoughts on “The Smackdown: Should Parents Bring Their Kids into Bars?

  1. MsC says:

    “The childless come to bars to have a good time; your screaming kids don’t factor into that.” So, for that matter, do those of us with children and went to the trouble and expense of arranging a babysitter so that we could enjoy some grown-up time in a grown-up place.

    I too get irritated with people who complain about the mere existence of children ruining their trip to Chucky Cheese, or McDonalds or Starbucks or Applebees, or any other place where the menu includes juice boxes and therefore expects to host kiddos. But a bar? How many states is that even legal in?

  2. Rachel says:

    Taking a young child to a bar is not a good idea. But it is less about the law or desires of the other patrons than it is about the health and safety of your child. Bars are loud (not good for little ears), often dirty (not good for little hands that put everything into little mouths), and full of people who have had too much to drink and are obnoxious. Bar stools are hard to sit on for little kids. People can act oddly and scare a kid who doesn’t know what “drunk” is. Now, I don’t think it is bad to drink in front of your kid, but a bar is not a good place to take them.

  3. Mike Adamick says:

    Chucky Cheese — the kids have totally ruined that place. I wouldn’t take my kid to a bar for many reasons — one that I’m a big fat freaking lush — but I actually wouldn’t mind it if I saw one in a bar and she wasn’t freaking out, screaming or her parents at least looked like they were trying to mind her. Honestly, I find it a lot more annoying to overhear 20 somethings chit chatting in their, like, you know, um, horrible way of speaking??

  4. jenny tries too hard says:

    Yeah, I’m definitely not childless and I would get pissed to think that I paid for a babysitter to go out and enjoy a night with my girlfriends or my husband, only to find other parents hanging out with their kids in the bar. Of course, yes, if I find it annoying, I can go elsewhere, but it’s a matter of respect for other people. Parents who took their kids to a kid-friendly place would be awful offended if a bunch of childless folks started treating it like a bar, so, yeah, it’s pretty disrepctful to treat a real bar like a kid-friendly place. If you simply must have a drink with your kid, go to Applebees. I would probably applaud a bar owner (not a bar & gril, but a bar) who made it clear that children were not welcome.

  5. cole gamble says:

    Hey Mike, just as a heads-up, Chuck E. Cheese serves beer. You’re welcome.

  6. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    If you’re meeting people at a bar for a drink and then moving on to another more kid-friendly venue, I can understand, although my personal choice would be just to meet later. But if giving up the bar visits is too much of a sacrifice for you to make… for your kids first and courtesy of your fellow man a distant second… then maybe you’re a little immature for parenting. A lot of your life becomes about your kid’s needs, and trying to jam them into your pre-kid nightlife is going to make for irritation all around. I’m also glad my husband and I spent a good long time together before having kids. We got to have our grownup time, hang out, drink and party and when we were ready to settle down and be responsible, we did. It’s still fresh in my mind, dealing with parents who to tow their kid to every venue they had a right to be in, yet wasn’t exactly appropriate. I make a effort not to be THAT parent… ever.

  7. Bec says:

    I see a difference between a BAR and a PUB, and that’s where I’d draw a line. A pub is just a cutesy variation on a restaurant, and I have totally held kissed and enjoyed babies and small kids in such places. In fact, there used to be a neighbourhood pub that was essentially Family HQ for get togethers, because no one had enough space to house the many siblings, their spouses and kids. A bar is a totally different beast, a place where drinking (usually to inebriation) is the primary purpose.

  8. Ri-chan says:

    Mike Admick- I’m in my 20′s and I don’t speak like that. I’m well read, pretty well educated, and not an idiot who likes to generalize an into generation of people.

  9. Ri-chan says:

    generalize an entire generation, not “an into generation”.

  10. Alicia says:

    I don’t understand why you would WANT to take your kid to a bar. I don’t even like to hang out too terribly much in bars. They are smoky, often unclean from things like spilled drinks, people getting sick, etc. and are filled with drunk people. Not something that I want to expose my children to. The things people do..

  11. joanie says:

    I think bringing a very young baby, strapped into a bjorn or carrier of some sort (so they disappear, essentially), no later than 9pm, in a friendly neighborhood bar, is fine. Anything else gets obnoxious. Any kid who can walk around is too old for a bar. I would agree, though, that a pub on a Sunday afternoon is fair game, though what kid wants to do that?

  12. GP says:

    Depends on the “bar” we have taken our kid with us anywhere she’s been allowed, in the US and abroad for the past 2.5 years (her whole life). She is well-behaved because she knows the ropes and we engage her and if she starts to get edgy, we wrap it up and leave. I am not talking fine-dining, here, but bars, yes. Perfectly acceptable now that there’s no smoking in most places. Also, if its a decent hour, like before 8 or 9 pm, its not really that “adult” of an atmosphere…any later than that (in the US) the kid should be in bed, anyway.

    “If you simply must have a drink with your kid, go to Applebees. I would probably applaud a bar owner (not a bar & gril, but a bar) who made it clear that children were not welcome.” Jenny…where’s the freedom-loving chick I thought I knew?

    I agree if kids are disruptive and obnoxious, they don’t belong, but people have to have a conscience and make that decision for themselves.

  13. GP says:

    Some of us actually LIKE having our kids around us and have raised them to be so pleasant that we are not bothered by them.

  14. GP says:

    I guess I should add that it really depends on the “bar”…like Bec described. We tend to like places that specialize in craft and microbrews, which generally aren’t crappy dives where drunks and derelicts are lurking around.

  15. jenny tries too hard says:

    I’m all for freedom, especially the freedom of a bar owner to declare his or her property smoke-free or smoke-welcome, childfree or child-friendly. And I would decide my patronage accordingly. I’m not saying adults have a “right” to a kid-free drinking experience or that parents have a “right” to a smoke-free Chuck E Cheese—-I’m saying that property owners have a right to set the mood of their establishments and let the customers vote with their feet.

  16. GP says:

    That makes sense…I was just thinking…never have we gone somewhere where the server or bartender acted like we were out of line being there. One place, a rough-lady bartender even gave my kid markers and a stuffed animal to play with and chatted with her…so I would say parents should take their cues from the staff and if they get a feeling of not being welcome, finish their drinks and split. Why would you want to stay somewhere you weren’t welcome, anyway?

  17. Trope says:

    I think this issue has less to do with the type of venue and much more to do with what time it is. A kid in a bar at 3 pm is more likely to be rested and amusing herself quietly than that same kid in the same bar at 10 pm. Ditto for a movie theater, a “family friendly” restaurant, or a 24 hour grocery store. It’s kinder for everyone (kids, siblings, bystanders) that parents not bring kids into places where the children will be unhappy, or to bring them out at times of day when they will likely be obnoxious. End of story.

    All that being said, we found ourselves with a broken down car on the other side of town when our son was 18 months old, and retired to a pub for a few hours while waiting on repairs. The server settled us in a corner booth, fed us fish and chips, and encouraged us to stay as long as we needed when the Bug laid down on the bench for a nap. He snoozed for two hours, we had a beer, and everybody was much happier after that. To my knowledge, none of the fans watching the football game on the other side of the bar were bothered by him. Nor was my toddler offended by the sight of them (or us!) drinking. Do we really need a law that prevents that?

  18. Heather says:

    I think the issues here really are “common sense” and”common courtesy”
    If “people” used both of those things there would be no problem with “kids in bars”. Unfortunately, there will always be some that think it would be great if they could spend the Babysitter money on a a half dozen pints and let their herd run wild.

  19. dkseattlite says:

    This is far to generalized to have a real debate. It depends on where, what type of establishment, time of day, etc etc. But if the question is, is it okay to bring a kid to a bar in the evening (bedtime or later) to an establishment that is meant for adults and is solely a place for consuming alcohol (and may allow smoking)… then no. I don’t care about my needs or the others in the bar, I just don’t think it’s appropriate for my child.

    And really, who actually *wants* to bring their kid to a bar???

  20. Amy Kuras says:

    I like the “is food secondary” rule. We’ve taken our kids to brewpubs and such, but a BAR bar, where it’s all about the cocktails, is inappropriate. I also think having them out anywhere much past 9-10 pm is inappropriate. We have friends who drag their kids out everywhere VERY late and brag about how they had their daughter out at the local wings-and-beer joint when she was three days old. Not cool–we miss our social lives but their needs for stability and sleep come first.

  21. PlumbLucky says:

    Definitely too general a question – type of establishment, time of day, etc. Was out watching a friend’s band play (btw – this is heavy metal, f-bomb dropping, loud; not exactly a family friendly cover band) at a local establishment around 11 pm. Parents had their children with them – two girls, I’d guess 7ish and 10ish – in the midst of this loud, raunchy, SMOKEY (I left early b/c I couldn’t handle it) bar. Yes, they serve food during the day, but they shut off the grills and fryers at 8. The tone of the place turns quite sharply at that time from “family pub” to “hookup bar” – the waitresses either changeover shifts or change clothing. These folks with the two girls stayed well past, and the little ones looked tired AND uncomfortable with being there. Yeah, that, I have an issue with and would not do myself. Have I brought my child to this establishment? Yeah. For lunch, during the day, with Grandma. He got a kick out of pressing the buttons on the jukebox and our waitress brought him a jukebox. But no way after 8.

  22. brittany marie says:

    ok first off if anybody brings a child into a bar i personally think they need to get out because its for one not only a non sanitary place but loud and children that young should not be around all drunks, because more than likely if you go to a bar your going to get drunk. parents who bring children into bars are just bad parents it shows how they want their children to be around its not the best atmosphere for them. the best thing to do for the baby is leave them at home with somoeone you trust so you know their ok and know that nothing bad is going to happen because at the bar you could get drunk or someone drunk could hurt the baby yes drinking and driving could hurt the baby even kill it but so can somone else at the bar. and if you do bring them to the bar, eat something first and make sure you don’t get completely waisted you can like drink water and not just alcohoal. so you don’t like risk you or your cilds life. im 14 and this makes complete since to me…. thats just sad for someone like 21 or so to bring their child into there there is NO POINT ITS DANGEROUS.

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