A restaurant in the wealthy London suburb of Buckhurst Hill has sparked controversy after its owner banned children under five.
The BBC reports that The Organic Kitchen’s owner Hilary Penning, who is a mother herself, enacted the ban for two reasons — concerns about noise from other customers subjected to the sound of kids screaming or crying, as well as to free up space taken away by strollers big enough to make monster trucks look like Smart Cars.
Penning pointed out that with only 10 tables in the small restaurant and servers trying to carry hot items to tables, strollers blocking the way would be a hazard to both staff and customers.
The ban, announced via a sign at the restaurant, caught the attention of the forums on British mommy blog and parenting site Mumsnet — and became so heated that the thread had to be shut down.
Penning’s husband also told the BBC that his wife had been verbally accosted on the street three times since making the change at her restaurant.
Penning pointed out to a local newspaper, the Epping Forest Guardian, that the three-month-old restaurant was aimed at a more formal “foodie” crowd rather than a casual spot for moms and their kids to hang out.
The Organic Kitchen reiterated its commitment to the ban today on Facebook, saying it was widely supported.
The very best food and dining experience at The Organic Kitchen When we founded the Organic Kitchen restaurant we did...Posted by The Organic Kitchen Ltd. on Friday, December 16, 2016
Indeed, there’s no shortage of commenters praising the ban. Some suggest it’s a smart business move to offer people a dining experience with some guarantee of peace and quiet:
I applaud your decision to ban toddlers and buggies from your restaurant and I'd wish other restaurants and pubs would...Posted by Nathalie Jean-Bart on Friday, December 16, 2016
I'm very pleased that you've banned toddlers and buggies from your restaurant. It's so nice to have somewhere to go...Posted by Carol Parker on Friday, December 16, 2016
I have seen your story on the news and would just like to offer you my best wishes and support. If I walk in to a cafe,...Posted by Bob Eastwick on Friday, December 16, 2016
Amongst the mostly supportive posts are a few expressing outrage at Penning, claiming her move is “discrimination.”
Horrified that Buckhurst Hill's new cafe The Organic Kitchen Ltd., located next to four schools, has decided to discriminate: Leaving buggies outside would seem fair, an outright ban on under fives is awful.Posted by Karen Sticher NéeMiles on Monday, December 12, 2016
Of course, the debate on whether restaurants should ban children is nothing new, and such bans frequently go viral after catching the attention of parents who believe their kids should be welcomed everywhere. Other restaurants have taken a slightly gentler approach: Cuchara in Houston hands out etiquette cards suggesting appropriate behavior for its youngest diners.
• Buckhurst Hill Restaurant Boss 'Abused' Over Toddler Ban [BBC]
• The Organic Kitchen Faces Online Anger From Parents [Epping Forest Guardian]
• Restaurants Banning Children: Is It Good for Business? [E]