Pubpaper 743 – Pubs and Children

Posted: 26th January 2014 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing
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Pubs and children, a topic which divides drinkers.  There are many camps ranging in the extreme from the “well its a public place innit, pub as a playground, not my responsibility geezer” parents to those who think that children should “sit in the beer garden with a pack of crisps and a half pint of coke with a straw in the pouring rain”.  However most people hover somewhere in the centre of this range.

I’m a parent to two children, aged four and ten.  The oldest started going to the pub at two weeks old, the youngest lasted a mere four days before being taken for beer.  They are used to being in public places and know how to behave when in a pub or restaurant having visited a great number of them over the years. Equally important is that I fully recognise that myself and my wife are responsible fully for them at all times.  There has been occasions when we have removed ourselves from the premises because it simply was not fair on other patrons to have to put with a child who is playing up in what is essentially an adult focused environment. If I, as an adult drinker would find such a distraction annoying, why is it fair to foist that on someone else.  I also never assume that children are welcome, asking first at any pub we are not sure about out of respect to the people who run it.

It must be remembered a pub is a private business that the owner is inviting you to enter at his discretion.  He can chose to not allow certain people in or limit when they can enter as long as it does not constitute illegal discrimination.  You see these rights being exercised by the business when nightclubs do not allow trainers to be worn, you have pubs in which football colours are not allowed, or when someone is barred for inappropriate behaviour.  A landlord can chose his policy towards children quite freely.  Some pubs are for adults only (one of my favourite local pubs is all the better for this), some only allow children when dining (ala Wetherspoons) and some embrace the family as part of their core marketing for dining and social drinking (chain restaurants like TwoForOne and Hungry Horse).

Most of the time there is accepted understanding that well behaved children are welcome until the early evening at which point it is up to the landlord to decide if they are allowed to stay on. It is the last group of pubs which make up most of my family pub visits.  If they want to restrict children to certain areas of the premises then they are well within their rights, and frankly most of the time the room(s) are one of the nicer areas of the pub, for example at the Sportsman in Huddersfield they put you in a snug with comfy benches and a wood burning stove. At the Cross Keys, Siddal you miss out on the wood burning stove, but get the pleasant spacey back room complete with wooden chest of toys, one of the best examples of getting the balance right in a local pub I’ve seen.

The sector of society which are parents are too important to cut out totally and it must be remembered that although they may not spend as much overall due to limited time, eventually comes a time when they have more free time and free money and they will remember the welcome given over the last 15 years when choosing where to go out.  However if the pub lets children run riot then it will also be remembered, but for the wrong reason and it will be knocked off the drinkers mental pub list.  These children are also the next generation of drinkers, living on the same street for 15 years I’ve seen those who live nearby go through 3 schools to being pub regulars who put a lot of money behind the bar by virtue of being young, having few outgoings and nothing to tie them down.  Their first “legal” beer (lets not wear rose tinted glasses here) when they turn 18 will probably with their dad at the local pub, followed by a lot more at a dodgy nightclub later that evening.

The balance of a responsible parent and fair clear rules from the landlord makes a pub a pleasure to visit for families and adult drinkers, and ensures a greater chance of future custom from all parties on the public side of the bar. For parents who abuse this invitation to enjoy the hospitality, the withdrawal of this invite is deserved, and leaves the pub a pleasant place for all to enjoy.

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    The problems tend to arise in pubs that seek to combine the roles of dining venue and drinkers’ local – if a pub is unequivocally either one or the other then you should know what to expect.

    However, it must be said that licensees are *extremely* reluctant to challenge bad behaviour by children (or rather parents permitting it) for fear of appearing uncharitable and grumpy. And some parents take offence at being excluded from *any* part of a pub. Last year I saw one family walk out of a pub in disgust at being asked to use a particular section.