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January 17, 2014

Rules for babies in restaurants

"Maybe Don't Bring Your Baby to a 3-Star Restaurant," Jezebel suggests, in response to a kerfuffle over a Chicago couple bringing their 8-month-old to the ultraexclusive restaurant Alinea because their babysitter canceled. The restaurant requires future patrons to buy $470 tickets to reserve a table for two in advance, and per Alinea's website, tickets are nonrefundable, though they are transferrable.

These parents were obviously in a tough spot, and I can see both sides of the issue on this one: The parents didn't want to lose a ton of money, and the patrons did not want a crying baby interrupting their expensive meal. So I'm not here to rehash the debate about whether parents should take their children out to certain spaces: We've heard endlessly about whether babies should be on planes or in bars or at concerts.

No matter how many Internet commenters argue about this topic, Americans are going to continue to bring their children into places that other Americans wish were adult-only spaces. (Side note: Yes, I know that people in Europe bring their kids to the pub all the time. Let's also accept this is a different cultural context, and in many ways, we will never be Europe.) Instead of continuing to argue, why don't we agree on some behavioral protocols for establishments, parents and nonparents alike?

For upscale establishments:

If you really don't want kids at your restaurant, then have a policy stating that children are not allowed. This seems like an OK thing to do if you've got Michelin stars and way less OK if you're a neighborhood pizza joint, where yelling children come with the package. What not to do as a restaurant owner: Post a pissy, passive-aggressive tweet after patrons leave, as Alinea owner Grant Achatz did:

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