The restaurant is named “Oma’s Küche,” which means Grandma’s Kitchen. But Grandma isn’t interested in dinner with the grandkids: The restaurant, in northern Germany, has made headlines by banning children under the age of 14 at dinnertime. It’s a tactic that other restaurateurs have tried — sometimes to much acclaim, and sometimes to huge backlash.
Rudolf Markl, the owner of Oma’s Küche, said the decision would offer an “oasis of peace” to the tourists who visit his restaurant, in a vacation town on the Baltic Sea. According to the German website DW.com, he made the decision to ban children in the evenings after several incidents of misbehaving kids damaging property in the restaurant while their parents looked on idly. He said that the rule is not designed to punish the children but rather the parents “who cannot control their children,” he told the DPA news agency.
The reaction, unsurprisingly, was highly polarized. Comments on social media have been harsh, but there are also many people who have stepped up to encourage Markl to continue the policy. That’s usually how it goes for restaurants around the world that decide to institute similar bans. Seemingly every year, one pops up to churn the outrage cycle anew.
Bans on children tend to happen after a restaurant has observed a pattern of children misbehaving, damaging property or getting in the way — and when patrons complain about it. This is especially true at fine-dining restaurants, where people expect an adult environment. Sometimes those complaints even come from other parents: Imagine paying $120 for a babysitter on a fancy date night, only to be seated next to some rowdy kids disrupting your dinner one table over. But other parents have encouraged boycotts of such places, saying they are engaging in age discrimination.
When Hampton Station, a restaurant in Tampa, put up a “no children” sign on its windows last November, there was a big outcry. The restaurant’s owner, Troy Taylor, told “Today” that the decision came after a dangerous incident with a child on the restaurant’s patio, which he declined to describe further. “It’s basically about children’s safety. We’re a small, local place, and I couldn’t stand to have someone get hurt, especially a kid, on our watch,” he said.
In New Zealand, a restaurant called the Little Bistro banned children under 10 because the restaurant is very small, and children playing have caused waitstaff to trip.
“Anyone who has ever worked in hospitality would always dream of having a child-free restaurant,” said owner Richard Uttley, who said he hasn’t received too much blowback.
That wasn’t the case for the Chart Room, a restaurant in England that was boycotted after announcing its child-free policy last August.
“My main demographic is older, more mature people who want peace and quiet,” owner Bob Higginson told Metro. “I wanted people to be able to come and discuss the old days and have a nostalgic chat without children running around and distracting them.”
But some residents disagreed: “Would he ban disabled people from entering his premises? Or people of a particular race or color or religion?” resident Wendy Moore asked the paper.
Overall, restaurants that ban children tend to weather the complaints well. Many even see a surge in business. At Caruso’s, an upscale Italian restaurant in Mooresville, N.C., reservations surged after the restaurant banned children under 5.
“I had several customers complain, get up and leave because children were bothering them, and the parents were doing nothing,” owner Pasquale Caruso told the Mooresville Tribune. “It started to feel like it wasn’t Caruso’s anymore, that it was a local pizzeria instead.”
But after the ban, he went from serving an average of 50 customers to 80 customers a day.
Markl, of Oma’s Küche, doesn’t expect it to affect his business at all. His restaurant is typically full, he says, and there are plenty of other places for parents to go. And he has received support from other restaurateurs, he told the Local — in particular, one local innkeeper who texted him a message of support. “He said that he has been thinking of this idea for 22 years and wanted to do it, but he simply does not have the courage,” Markl said.
More from Voraciously: