Nation riveted by ban on kid diners

| Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Call it a ban-the-brat policy.

The label might seem a bit harsh. But that's the intent of the impending prohibition of children under the age of 6 from McDain's restaurant in Monroeville.

Beginning on Saturday, patrons will have to prove they are at least old enough to attend first grade to enjoy McDain's smooth jazz and low lights. Owner Mike Vuick wants to separate his eatery's adult patrons from the frequently wailing, unruly children who threaten to drive them away.

He didn't anticipate any controversy when he recently e-mailed regular customers about the coming change at the restaurant, which he opened in 2002 to complement his adjacent driving range and golf center.

"We've never had a children's menu," said Vuick, 64, of Swissvale. "We've never provided coloring books or had any children's activities. I didn't think it would be a big deal."

He was wrong.

Vuick spoke to me on Tuesday following interviews on Fox and MSNBC, but before his scheduled appearances on CNBC, the American Radio News Network and Philadelphia and Seattle radio talk shows.

They apparently were interested in having Vuick explain this atypical occurrence of -- wait, what do you call extreme reverse ageism• Toddlerism• Infantism• Urchinism?

"The number of babies being brought in here had increased," Vuick said. "Nothing against babies, but they can't be expected to control themselves. They can erupt at any time."

So can slightly older children.

"Kids in the 2-to-5 range have become increasingly vocal and boisterous, and there has been a lack of parental cooperation in keeping them quiet," Vuick said. "Our staff would politely ask that the children be temporarily removed until they settled down, and they would get these increasingly indignant responses."

While other upscale restaurants in Pittsburgh haven't resorted to the level of banning small children, many haven't exactly catered to them. Consider:

• LeMont: Never once in its illustrious 51-year history has this landmark location had on the menu bottomless orders of wacky fries.

• Nine on Nine: You can request crayons so your child can color on the linen tablecloths while you peruse the wine list. Just don't count on the Crayolas ever arriving.

• Grand Concourse: The next time appetizers are served by someone dressed as a huggable, colorful flounder will be the first.

• The Carlton: Want to drive your waiter crazy• Inquire if your drinks will come with crazy straws. Want to send him over the edge• Ask him the location of the restaurant's ball pit and climbing tubes.

Restaurants seeking a primarily adult clientele are under no obligation to cater to customers with small children. Vuick essentially has enacted a reasonable policy of "No Self-Control, No Service."

Getting miffed over McDain's ban-the-brat policy makes as much sense as griping over the lack of adult menu options at many kid-themed restaurants.

Ever hear anyone complain that Chateaubriand isn't available at Chuck E. Cheese?

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