Grandma doesn’t care for kids. Oma's Küche, meaning Grandma's Kitchen, in Germany has decided to ban children under 14 at dinnertime.
Owner Rudolf Markl has been weighing the decision for a while. "We have somehow reached that point where you say: This just can't go on like this," he told the DPA news agency. Markl had enough after a few kids got reckless at his restaurant on the island of Rügen and damaged his antique photo stands.
Before that, however, Markl was already growing frustrated with unruly children bothering other patrons by playing with the table settings and generally misbehaving. The parents "acknowledge it with a smile, keep on eating, and don't care at all," he said.
Markl says his decision targets indifferent parents "who cannot control their children." His decision has received support from his peers in the industry, though the media has been less accepting. Markl, though, says many patrons welcomed the change because it offers an "oasis of peace" to those spending good money to eat out.
The trend is not unique to Germany. A growing number of hotels and tour agencies around the world are catering exclusively to adults. Companies have the right to decide if children are allowed or not, says Lars Schwarz, the head of the Hotel and Restaurant in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. He is not in favor though. "In this state, we aim to be friendly to children," he said.
Germany's anti-discrimination office also weighed in saying the decision raises legal concerns since it may go against with the country's ban on age discrimination. "The arguments such as the higher noise level that would disturb the guests are not necessarily enough for a wholesale ban on children below a certain age," says the office's head, Bernhard Franke, adding that Markl could be sued by clients. He believes a better policy is to simply ask parents with unruly children to leave.
On Germany's public radio NDR, Markl said the new policy is against children but in favor of adults. The restaurateur has always been ahead of his time. In 2007, his restaurant in Rügen was the first to ban smoking, long before smoking bans became public policy.
In the US, child bans at restaurants are nothing new. In 2013, Houston's La Fisheria banned children under 8 after 7 pm, and in 2014, Old Fisherman's Grotto in Monterey, California barred strollers and highchairs in a veiled attempt to discourage patents from bringing their children.
"I'm okay with banning kids, as long as it’s clear on the website, so I don’t feel like an idiot for trying to bring mine," food writer Regan Stephens says. "I just feel like there wouldn’t be a need if parents were thoughtful: went to early bird dinners, engaged with their kids, left if there were meltdowns, etc."
Naomi Tomky, another food writer, says child bans are a restaurant's choice, though she believes parents should generally try to eat out early if going with kids. "If I pay for a babysitter to go somewhere nice for a late, romantic dinner," she says, "I do not want to be next to your kids."