The topic of young children in restaurants is a highly divisive one. Some believe parents have every right to take their young children out to dine, which allows them to spend time together as a family and familiarize their children with eating out. Others are adamant that a relaxing meal with friends or partners can be ruined by screaming youngsters at a neighboring table.
A restaurant in Binz, on the island of Rügen on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, recently reignited this debate by barring children under the age of 14 from the restaurant after 5 pm.
“Guests complained that they wanted to have a nice evening, with dinner and a bottle of wine, and time and time again children ruined that,” Rudolf Markl, the owner of Oma’s Küche (Grandma’s Kitchen), told Quartz. “They throw food around, play tag, shout loudly around the place, climb under the tables—and other guests have no patience with it anymore.”
Markl has owned the restaurant for 11 years, and he says the behavior of children diners has been getting worse from one year to the next. He puts the blame on parents, saying they don’t care how their kids behave in the restaurant, and get upset when asked to control children who are creating a disturbance. The ban went into effect on August 13.
“It has nothing at all to do with discrimination,” Markl says. “It is a restaurant and not a playground.” He added that adults wouldn’t be allowed to behave badly either.
Oma’s Küche’s business has not been affected at all by the new rule, according to the restaurant. Markl says that he has had 1,200 emails of support in the past few weeks from people in Germany and abroad, predominantly in gastronomy and education, telling him that his action was “long overdue.” Some other restaurant proprietors have written to him saying they are thinking of implementing a similar rule.
The comments on the the restaurant’s Facebook site are mostly positive, too. There have also been a few death threats “from some kind of crazy people,” Markl says. “But it happens, and you shouldn’t take these people too seriously.”
It’s not the first time a restaurant or café has provoked a fiery debate in Germany by banning children. Back in 2012, a hip coffee roaster in Berlin’s “no children” policy caused mass consternation.
Child-free areas in public places are not as unusual as they once were. Restaurants in many countries are saying no to kids, sometimes citing legal or safety concerns. Resorts like Sandals have never allowed them, and many airlines create child-free zones or even ban babies from first class.