Should cafes be kid-free?

Next time you bring your baby to Sunday brunch, make sure he or she uses an "inside voice."

Published November 9, 2005 9:05PM (EST)

The war between the child-free and the child-centered has a new front: According to a report in today's New York Times, a bitter controversy is brewing in Chicago's trendy Andersonville neighborhood, where restaurant owners claim customers can't keep their kids under control. Dan McCauley, owner of the cafe Taste of Heaven, told the Times he decided to post a friendly, "playful" sign after repeatedly watching toddlers "sprawl between tables and hurl themselves at display cases for sport." His message was simple: "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven."

With his note, McCauley joined a chorus of shopkeepers and restaurant managers around the country who have begun to voice their annoyance at parents who feel entitled to bring children into all the spots -- such as coffeehouses -- that were once sanctuaries for adults. The owners of the Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, Calif., make their preferences clear with a sign on their door that reads, "Well-behaved children and parents welcome." According to the Times, "Menus at Zumbro Cafe in Minneapolis announce: 'We love children, especially when they're tucked into chairs and behaving.'" Some folks have even gone so far as to circulate petitions lobbying for kid-free sections in restaurants. One petition signer from North Carolina writes, "Whenever a hostess asks me 'smoking or non-smoking?' I respond, 'No kids!'"

Needless to say, some parents are not amused. "I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent," Alison Miller, a 35 year-old mother of two from Andersonville, told the Times. "I'd love for [Dan McCauley] to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day." Another Andersonville mother, 40-year-old Laura Brauer, told the Times, "The looks I would get when I went in [to Taste of Heaven] made me so nervous that I would try to buy the food as fast as I could and get out. I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?"

So, we ask Broadsheet readers: What are parents supposed to do? Should kids be allowed in all restaurants? Or are restaurants and cafes warranted in wanting their businesses to remain quiet, clean and kid-free?

Write us a letter and tell us what you think. And remember -- play nice!

By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit and Signs and Wonders.

MORE FROM Sarah Karnasiewicz

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex