Kid-free cafes: The debate rages on!

Broadsheet's in box has been clogged with impassioned letters from parents and restaurant patrons.

Published November 16, 2005 4:09PM (EST)

Last week Broadsheet made note of the controversy brewing over whether kids belong alongside adults in cafes and restaurants -- and since then a steady stream of impassioned letters has been pouring into our in box. Have a look at two that really caught our attention:

The first comes from Nicholas Petti, chef/owner of Mendo Bistro, one of the restaurants mentioned in the New York Times article that inspired our discussion. Petti writes:

"A little misinformation has been spread. We don't have a sign on our door reading "Well-behaved children and parents welcome." We do have a very small notice on the bottom of our menu that says that.

"Public spaces provide excellent learning opportunities for people (including children) to gain understanding of how their behavior impacts others. We expect that people would like to be well-treated and that they don't mind extending that courtesy to others. There are some people out there though who are so self-absorbed that they need a reminder that they are sharing the space with others. The children aren't the problem. The parents are."

The second comes from Jennifer Vanasco, a columnist for the Chicago Free Press:

"I actually live in Andersonville, a block away from the cafe that posted its "keep your kids quiet" sign. The Times story -- and the Timeout story before that -- didn't really hit what's really going on here, and I think what's happening is actually more interesting.

"Andersonville is one of two prime gay and lesbian neighborhoods in Chicago. But about two years ago, straight couples with young children started moving in in droves. The tension here is not between weary moms and cranky hipsters. Andersonville really isn't a hipster sort of neighborhood. The tension is between the perceived needs of the gay/lesbian community and the straight parents.

"It's straight parents, not 'parents,' because the neighborhood is starting to get pricey. Gays and lesbians who have kids usually need to live elsewhere. Those who live here (including me) are usually single renters or established gay male couples without kids. There seems to be a subtle war going on: is Andersonville going to be a bar scene type of neighborhood, or a family type of neighborhood? This is all about gentrification and culture, not about kids/no kids."

We at Broadsheet thought that was a compelling new take on the controversy -- and Vanasco was so fired up about the subject that she's devoted her column to it this week.

So, check it out -- and keep those letters coming!

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.

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