This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Things were easier in the 90s. Unless you're basically a teenager now, you may have faint memories of a time when British pubs banned children in the main bar. A time when kids would have to sit in a separate area with chairs and table to eat their pub food, then be asked to leave in the evening before the grown-ups presumably got weird.
Then, in 1995 the ban on kids in pubs in England and Wales was overturned and we fast-forwarded to what happens now: the screams of children wobbling over your cliched pounding headache on a Saturday afternoon in your local. Young parents dragging their kids into the pub to prove to their friends that, yes, they are still fun and do things they used to before "the little one" arrived. Now you have to just sit there while a child you don't know stares at you intently in silence for a solid 40 seconds.
Mums and dads have to eat too, and so young children end up in restaurants as well. This week, a restaurant owner was labelled a "disgrace to motherhood" for implementing a no-toddler policy in her establishment (which has only been open for about three months). She's got a young child of her own, but people have kicked off anyway – predictably, thanks to a thread on Mumsnet. We took the question to the streets, and asked people around east London whether, definitively, restaurants should be able to ban children.
VICE: Do you hate screaming toddlers and if so would you ban them from restaurants?
Matt: Everyone hates it but we can't ban them. Maybe we should provide them muzzles… Or leashes. I'm from the US and over there under-21s can't be around anywhere where there's alcohol, which makes it easier.
VICE: What would you do if there was a screaming toddler where you were eating?
Tigerlily: It depends on how far I am into my meal and where I am. If I've just sat down I'd go and eat somewhere else if it's a posh dining experience, but if it's casual then I might just bear it. We're all going to get to that stage at some point in our lives where we want to be adults but also have to be parents. I don't think it's fair to shun people.
So if you were on a date in a Michelin-starred place with your boo you wouldn't tell the management?
I'm never going to be that shady in life. I might give you a shady look, but I don't feel the need. It might ruin my evening but at least they got to have a night out.
That's very diplomatic.
I know, I'm great.
VICE: Should toddlers be banned from restaurants?
Sayed: I don't think they should be banned. I've got kids and if you're going out as a family it's part and parcel of the experience.
Do you like eating out with them then?
Are they messy?
So why do you like it?
It's the company, it's going out as a family. One is 10 and one is six, so they're a bit older now but the six-year-old is still a really messy eater.
VICE: Would you ban toddlers from a restaurant?
Ben: I mean, I would never order a toddler to eat so ban them, definitely ban them… I'm joking, if you were to do that you limit your customer base. I used to work in a pub where toddlers were only allowed in certain areas and it was kind of silly.
Nabila, 22 and Suaad, 20
VICE: How would you feel if you had to sit next to a crying toddler in a restaurant?
Nabila: You know it's really bad but, actually, I used to think, oh my god, why isn't that mother getting that child to be quiet?
Suaad: But it's so hard – how can you control your child?!
Nabila: Yeah, the child is supposed to be free and scream. Obviously there's discipline. but we don't know if the child is in pain, or hungry. That's their release, they can't talk yet so if they want to be loud, let them. The mother will be feeling embarrassed that their child is being loud and everything. That person who's banning people was once a toddler in a restaurant.
So what would you say to the woman with the restaurant ban?
Suaad: I would say that everyone should ban her and not go to her restaurant at all, whatsoever. You're limiting the people coming in, and your own business. The lady or the man who has the toddler, they want to eat your food too so you should be happy.
VICE: Would you kick a screaming toddler out of a restaurant?
Ben: Not on its own!
OK, with the parents.
I mean, it's bad form to bring toddlers to certain glamorous restaurants. There's a time and a place for children.
Fair enough, thanks Ben.
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