Crying Baby Ignites Debate Over Fine Dining

crying baby, u.s., debate

Crying baby ignites debate over whether young children should be allowed to accompany parents to fine dining establishments. Chicago’s Aliena Restaurant is noted as top-notch and enjoys high praise and acclaim.  A baby has challenged customer expectations causing an uproar in a space where dinner for two costs just under $300 before drinks and tip. The situation has gone viral with social media taking in comments on both sides of the debate.

On Saturday night, owner and world-renowned chef, Grant Achatz, tweeted his uneasiness with being faced with handling customer complaints over a couple’s crying eight-month-old baby The tweet read: “Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no, but…”

After learning the couple had a last-minute babysitter cancellation, Achatz, did not ask the couple to vacate the premises. His decision to allow the couple to stay has others including chefs, parent groups, bloggers and those without kids weighing in on the debate.

Achatz, does not have a policy addressing babies and children, or their behavior. Co-owner Nick Kokonas reached out electronically via email Tuesday, sharing his thoughts. “We welcome children of all ages who can enjoy the meal — there probably isn’t an age limit,” he said. “And we’ve had babies that have slept right through the dinner happily,” but Achatz states he does leave the aspect of courtesy available for all diners. Meaning exercise decorum to avoid interruptions for fellow diners.

Owners of fine dining establishments vary on policy over crying babies.  Some talk to customers entering establishments with babies and children, addressing the issue head on by letting customers know, that if children become disruptive they will be asked to leave. Others set up back room areas where customers with crying or otherwise disruptive children are invited to step out of the main dining area until tantrums end.  Then there are restaurants like Aliena who maintain executive control by not including a policy.

Different degrees of tact are used, and most owners and chefs agree that a waiter would not have to be the bearer of bad news surrounding customer complaints. If a wrist slap is issued, it comes from management.

The debate even spilled over becoming a hot topic on Good Morning America and as with any viral sensation Twitter, has birthed anther handle. This one is jokingly named “Aliena’s Baby.”

Restaurants, are not the only businesses to consider banning, or ejecting young children. Most movie theaters list in print when and if young children under the age of 5 are allowed to take in a show. Many do not allow entrance to babies and children in for evening viewings.

Parent groups are usually run by people with children. They have thoughts on appropriate kid venues. Most people can agree they don’t want to have a well-planned evening ruined by a crying baby.  Cathy Subber, a mother of two, also owns, Napperville Mom’s Network. In support of moms, she still sees the need for adult only spaces in some instances. “If you’re having this fantastically romantic, wonderful dinner, it would seem that there’d be an expectation that there wouldn’t be kids there.”

For now, the debate continues and a crying baby will simply have to be tolerated in certain fine dining spaces.

By C. Imani Williams








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