Belfast Telegraph

Do unruly children ruin fine dining?

By Joanne Sweeney

It's a debate that rages between people with children and those without.

The presence of ill-behaved young children in posh restaurants can ruin the experience of people who want to enjoy their food in a convivial and civilised atmosphere.

In today's straightened economy, an evening meal for two in a fine-dining restaurant is a treat that many people often need to budget for out of their monthly income.

A Canadian business owner recently received hate mail after he dared to bar "small screaming children" from his restaurant.

The Lobster Pound and Moore in Nova Scotia put out a message on its Facebook page which said: "Effective as of now, we will no longer allow small screaming children."

He quickly withdrew the comment in the face of hostile comments and issued a sincere apology saying that his words should have been 'Lil (sic) diners having a moment'.

While some restaurants in London and Dublin chose to restrict times when family diners can bring in their younger children, that does not appear to be the case in Northern Ireland.

The Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 requires any licensed restaurant who wish to serve food to children under the age of 18 to apply for a children's certificate.

Children need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18 and leave the premises by 9pm.

A spokesman for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland confirmed there was currently no equality legislation which protected people against discrimination on grounds of age when accessing goods and services - and this includes access to restaurants.

Its statement said that although the Executive is committed to introduce legislation which would extend protection from age discrimination to include the provision of goods, facilities and services, it would not be extended to people under age as it currently stands.

Will Brown, a new father and chef/owner of The Old Schoolhouse in Newtownards, says he welcomes families with young children with open arms at his establishment.

"We are a family business. This was handed down to me from my parents so why wouldn't I welcome young children here?"

A spokeswoman for Beannachor Group, which runs the five-star Merchant Hotel in Belfast, confirmed that all of its establishments were happy to welcome children subject to licensing laws which prevent children dining at certain times when alcohol is being served.

However, Jackie Gilmore who owns the Robert Stewart pub restaurant in the outskirts of south Belfast, says that a pub is not a suitable place for children.

He said: "We don't have a children's certificate to serve children so we are well within the law when we don't allow them in."

For: Experience is vital for learning

Pip Jaffa,  chief executive, Parenting NI: "Whilst acknowledging that it may be frustrating and irritating for fellow diners in a restaurant when a child becomes upset, it is important that children are allowed to experience activities such as eating out with their family so they can learn how to behave and what is expected of them."

Against: Leave the tantrums at home

Chris Love,  PR practitioner from Belfast, single with no children: "If you're one of those parents who has an uncontrollable child, throws temper tantrums and cries non-stop, then you really should have stayed at home or dumped the kids with a babysitter and run. The great Northern Ireland public are too polite to say anything."

Belfast Telegraph


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