Is it appropriate to ban young children from restaurants in Sydney?
Today, I rode past a relatively new tapas restaurant at Petersham and thought I would check out whether it might be a place we could attend as a family for dinner (my son is five years old). Alas, websites reported that young children were not welcome after 6:30pm – which would appear to mean we could not dine there.
This information was confirmed by the Kidsize Living website, which said that it had been asked to remove the restaurant from its online list of family-friendly eateries.
Initially, I thought this was an outrage. After all, my wife and I have taken our son to many restaurants – including quite fancy ones – and he has always behaved extremely well. This includes a three-hour degustation meal at a beautiful restaurant at South Australia. And we like doing things as a family – we don’t particular like getting babysitters.
Why should he, and us, be banned from a nearby restaurant. It simply sounded like discrimination on the basis of age?
Then tonight, we attended the restaurant at the Henson Park Hotel at Marrickville, which has recently got some tremendously positive press. The place was quite frankly a zoo – noisy and chaotic with children running about. Most tables had a high-seat attached to them. It was simply too busy and too frenetic, with the high number of children adding to this undesirable atmosphere. The hotel had attempted to calm things down with signs warning parents to not let their children run wild, but it didn’t seem to be working.
But clearly, the hotel was encouraging a family-friendly atmosphere by turning its former garage into a play area. From business point of view this was clearly working, but I am not sure I will return.
The whole day begged the question – is it appropriate to ban children from restaurants?
After all, the number of children in Sydney is expected to rise dramatically over the next two decades according to the Planning and Infrastructure Department. In 2011, there were 797,800 children aged under 15 in Sydney and by 2021 this will rise to 979,300, a jump of 38%. Increasingly, these children will live in inner city areas and will enjoy a ‘café’ culture.
Anyone who does ban children from restaurants would appear to be treading a fine line with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act. This states that:
It is unlawful for a person who provides, for payment or not, goods or services to discriminate against another person on the ground of age:
(a) by refusing to provide the other person with those goods or services, or
(b) in the terms on which the other person is provided with those goods or services.