Disney World, the happiest place on earth, is now an even happier place for those who want to indulge in an Adult Friendly evening. Victoria and Albert’s, a five star restaurant in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, officially adopted a policy of no children under the age of ten at the start of 2008. The decision on the part of Disney management is one to be applauded; no one should be subject to a misbehaving child during $125 prix fixe meal. Some argue that this is the newest addition to a growing number of “child-unfriendly” policies sweeping the nation but few are addressing the root cause of the issue; why are businesses compelled to ban children?
Victoria and Albert’s is the definition of an upscale dining experience. Upon arriving each woman receives a single red rose and diners are escorted to a very small and private dining room. Guests enjoy a 2 ½ hour multi-course gourmet meal served with white gloves in an atmosphere compete with harpist. For an extra $60 above the base price of $125 you can enjoy a wine pairing with each course; this is a culinary event and not just a dinner. Does this sound like the kind of place to bring a child under the age of 10? Management attempted to communicate the adult setting of this restaurant with the absence of children’s pricing, yet parents insisted on bringing their young children. Ultimately the high number of complaints directed towards ill-behaved children forced Disney to take action, ensuring their key clientele paying top dollar would have the perfect evening they were looking for. Interestingly enough, reports indicate the biggest complaints came from parents who were trying to get away from children for the evening.
Disney is not alone. There are a growing number of restaurants, shops and bars addressing the presence of children on their premises. Ultimately it boils down to one thing; there is a time and a place for children and too many parents have demonstrated their inability to draw the line as to when and where children are appropriate. Fancy restaurants, rowdy bars, adult theaters and antique shops are just a few examples of businesses that are not designed for children and are taking official action to keep them out. Even casual restaurants and cafes are starting to create policies so their diners without children, or with well-behaved children, are not forced to endure inconsiderate parents and their misbehaving brood.
There is parental backlash against establishments enforcing a brat-free environment. Parents with a sense of entitlement are going so far as to bring age-discrimination lawsuits when denied entry or asked to leave when their child is acting up. This anger and action against restaurants is terribly misplaced. Rather then focusing upon busines policies shouldn’t we instead focus on the mounting parental irresponsibility driving the need for these policies? Even parents who actually have darling, perfectly behaved children recognize there are other parents who refuse to discipline and control their offspring and children-free policies are making up for a lack of common sense.
A combination of political correctness and mommy-mania has us dancing around the issue of parents refusal to supervise their children causing chaos, running around restaurants, tripping patrons and waitstaff, disrupting conversations, ruining everyone’s day and becoming a danger to themselves and those around. What is a sad testament to the state of our society is how many parents do not notice or care about their children running amok. Few parents take criticism of their children very well and most are horrified when confronted with the suggestion their child is anything less then perfectly behaved, becoming indignant when confronted. The worst behaved children are often the offspring of parents who would accept a request to gouge their eyes out with a sugar spoon sooner than a request to shut their kids up; making it nearly impossible to communicate when junior is causing angst amongst diners.
Even worse are those who claim this disorderly conduct is a normal part of growing up and calming children down is an impossible task or one that will hurt their fragile self-esteem. These parental excuses are leading to generations of children who without the most basic understanding of politeness and respect are ill-equipped to function upon leaving the nest. Some parents argue that these restaurant bans will actually limit their ability to teach children how to behave while dining out which is nothing short of absurd. Like all good lessons that of table manners can begin at home. If parents allow their children to run around the house and act up during mealtimes this behavior will not miraculously disappear when entering a fine French restaurant. Children can even learn table manners at McDonald’s if parents demand them to behave with the same courtesy and respect that is expected in a higher class restaurant. The lessons of public etiquette and behavior should be approached much like our schooling; just as we don’t expect a five year old to thrive in high-school algebra we shouldn’t expect that same five year old to master the skills necessary to dine in a five star restaurant. Even restaurants that cater more to children should not be viewed as a playground; no one visiting Applebee's expects an intimate and quiet dinner but that is no excuse to let children hang from the rafters.
Parents also argue that they are entitled to enjoy a fine meal just as much as non-parents forgetting that part of the choice to have children includes sacrificing visits to restaurants that serve foie gras. Unless willing to hire a babysitter parents should stick to restaurants with high chairs, children’s menus, kids eat free specials and placemats with crayons. Children will still get a night out with their parents and will be far happier with chicken finger then goose liver. There are far more places that cater to children then those that don’t. Those who enjoy the pleasure of an intimate dining experience or even a quiet coffee shop should support businesses brave enough to stand up to “family-friendly” pressures to provide an adult-friendly atmosphere.