Babies and Beer in Brooklyn

When Carlitos was first born my husband and I had just turned 26.  Our friends were still living it up.  Hardcore.  Well, hardcore for artsy fartsy types.  Which I think simply translates to lots of pot.

What do I know? I was suddenly busy making sure my organic lettuce had been triple washed and that my baby’s bottles were BPA-free.

But sometimes we still wanted to let loose.  We were still so young and having a baby takes up pretty much all of your time, attention and energy.   If you never get a release from that you can go a little stir crazy.  Or just plain old crazy.

However, babysitters?  Mucho dinero, my friends.  Guess what two 26-year-olds (one in public education, no less) were not rolling in?  Yeah, money.  So if a couple invited us over for dinner, we went.  With our baby.  If friends invited us to a party in New York?  We drove up there and went.  With our baby.  Given a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant?  Yup, Carlitos ate at Cipriani in NYC at age two.

It was our reality and we didn’t think anything of it.

My point is, I get still wanting to party a little, have a drink or meet up with friends even after you have babies.  I really do.

However, we also only had one baby at the time.  And pretty much nobody else in any of our circles had babies yet.  Baby Carlitos was more of a novelty than a nuisance.  Or so I hope, I suppose.   It always made me think of that Talking Heads song Stay Up Late.  It was all kind of messy and fun and romantic at the time.

Things changed as Carlitos got older, though.  And once we had a second baby.  And once we all grew up a bit.

Currently, with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, I don’t take my kids to nighttime parties, events, or bars.  It doesn’t feel fair to my kids – who now have stable sleep patterns – and it doesn’t feel fair to other people trying to have a good time without censoring themselves for little ears and little eyes.

But we live in a neighborhood next to the infamous Park Slope in Brooklyn and frankly, I think too many parents haven’t used common sense on this topic.  In fact, I think there seem to have been way too many parents forcing lots of kids, babies and bulky strollers into way too many bars.  Caring more about their rights to happiness than the rights of those around them.  And now, due to acts of entitlement from parents, there is backlash.  Lots of backlash.  Which ends up, as backlash is wont to do, sounding like whiny entitlement from the other side.  It seems like some people would prefer never to come into contact with children.  I’m not sure what prompted them to come to Park Slope if that’s how they feel.  It’s their choice, obviously, but it is just a strange choice, like going to a Ryan Gosling movie and being annoyed at how many drooling women there are in the theater.

In any event, I didn’t care much about this debate until it directly affected my life.  Yes, keep in mind that I said ‘affected my life.’ Here’s the thing, I tend to eat based on cravings (even when not pregnant) and I was craving a burger.  It was a Sunday so we looked up places in our area with good burgers.  There was one with great reviews and within walking distance! Score! Until I read further and realized we couldn’t go. See? Greatly affected my life.

Why, you ask? (Well, if you have half a brain I’m sure you can guess based on the topic of this post.)

Yup, because we have procreated.  And do not have a live-in nanny or nearby family  with whom to leave our kids if we want to go somewhere alone at the last minute.

It was 5:30 pm.  No babies or children are allowed in this restaurant after 5:00pm.  Meaning we would have had to be there by 4:00 pm at the latest in order to finish our meal in time.  4:00 pm for dinner.

Basically, they should simply say they don’t want kids eating there for dinner.  But that would sound much more controversial, so they give a 5:00pm cut-off and say it is simply to keep babies out of bars at night.

I call BS.

Also?  I refuse to give this location my patronage (or link to them, as you may have noticed).  You don’t want my family coming in for dinner?  Even a 5:00 pm dinner?  Great.  Done.  But don’t expect me to pay a babysitter and then come spend my money in your establishment.  When I spend money on a babysitter and then a restaurant it will be somewhere I want to support and feel welcomed.

I think their rule is extreme and silly.  So, I am being extreme and silly in return.  See how now I seem like the whiny one?  Oh, who asked you.

Then there was a new biergarten that came to town this August.  A biergarten, guys!   A few blocks away!  We were so excited!  Date night!  And no cab fare!

They did something interesting and made their stance clear from the beginning: We are pro-family, pro-kid, pro-stroller.

I cringed.

Why you gotta mention the strollers?  This spells trouble.

Sure enough, by September they had switched sides with force:  No children permitted after 4:00 pm.

Nobody likes a flip-flopper, guys.  Did you not live in this country during the presidential race of 2004?

Well, cross that one off the list too, I guess.  Who needs carb-laden beer and pretzels anyway?  Not this curvy girl.

Personally, I think all of this is a shame.  I really believe that too many people (in general, not just in Park Slope) let their children act up in restaurants.   If your baby or child starts crying or having a tantrum you should leave.  Period.  I feel really strongly about that.  Other people are spending their money and time trying to have a nice meal, too.  It’s not fair to subject them to yelling and crying.  Getting food wrapped up to go and rushing out of a restaurant before dessert arrives?  Those are the kinds of sacrifices we signed up for when we became parents.

And as far as bars go, I don’t think babies or kids belong.  Of course there are exceptions here and there.  Maybe your best friend is having an engagement party at a bar and you can’t get a sitter.  Bring the baby but only stay an hour.  I mean, I get that things come up in life and there should almost always be flexibility.  But this situation has obviously gone way beyond exceptions to the rule.  People seem to be bringing their offspring to bars on the regular.  Buy a six pack and have some friends over, guys!  It’s cheaper, anyway.

Think about how crazy it is that bars have to put a ban on kids!

But the restaurant thing irks me.  Why should all of us with children not be able to go out to dinner as a family because of the lack of discipline and sacrifice on the part of some parents?  If a parent is letting their kid run around a restaurant or yell, ask them to please not be disruptive to other diners.  Handle the situation itself rather than banning all of us.

Italy – where you are still allowed to bring your kids to restaurants, even when you order wine with your meal!  So retro!

I’ve been in plenty of restaurants where groups of middle-aged women are guffawing so loudly and repeatedly that I can’t hear what my dining partner is saying.  Do we ban all middle-aged women in parties of four or more from restaurants?  I’ve been in plenty of bars where the perfectly askew ski hat on the guy next to us  is so annoying that it is downright distracting.  (Dude, it’s August, why are you even wearing that thing in the first place?!)  Do we ban all hipsters from bars?

Nope, of course not.

Honestly, this situation, like almost everything these days, seems to have become super polarized and extreme.  Why have we all lost the ability to simply use common sense and common courtesy with each other? I really don’t think it needed to get to the point where groups of people are being banned from eating establishments.

But it has.

So, if anybody wants to pitch in some moula, I will gladly host any parents with kids at our house for delicious fare, fabulous cocktails and a really good time.  You even get to help pick the playlist!  It will be the best restaurant/bar EVER.

*The teacher in me says “Here’s a link if you want to learn more!” I’m not the author of the article(s)  below, but it’s still decent writing, I guess… I mean, if you like writing that isn’t mine.*

- Brooklyn Brewhaha: Babies in Bars; CNN; Ravitz, Jessica

- Shots and Tots in Brooklyn Bars, Revisted; New York Times; Goodman, David J.

- Park Slope Parents Still Bringing Babies to Bars; Gothamist

- As Biergarten Welcomes the Juice-Box Set, Some Barflies Jeer; New York Times; Sangha, Soni and Yee, Vivian

- Parents Fume Over Brooklyn Biergarten Kid Ban; Daily News; Yaniv, Oren

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2 Responses to Babies and Beer in Brooklyn

  1. Zoë says:

    I thought the funniest part of the beer garden thing is that it was the local teachers who tipped the balance–not wanting to get tipsy in front of the kids they had been teaching all week. I’m sure that you as a teacher can relate to that!

    I feel OK with the selection of restaurants that are kid-friendly around here. Enzo’s has always been very welcoming and nice to families–I feel genuinely comfortable there even if we’re the only one with young kids. And their food is really delicious and reasonably priced. Johnny Mac’s is great for a burger, has beer on tap, and certainly would welcome kids (never bothered to take my kids there though). I think the places that say “no kids after hour x” are just trying to appeal to a hipster audience, which is fine with me. Honestly, I haven’t been able to go to Double Windsor since the first month it opened because after about 4 or 5 it’s just too damn crowded! Call me an old lady, but when I’m drinking I like to sit down and be able to hear the person I’m drinking with.

    About the beer garden–I went there (just with other grownups) at the end of August, and there were some drunk—as in seriously inappropriately drunk–people (men) there at 9pm on a Friday night. If I owned that place, I would probably not allow kids anyway for potential lawsuits. Either that, or get better bouncers.

  2. Zoe – Thank you so much for commenting!

    Yes, as a teacher, I totally get it. We had a local watering hole we went to on Fridays at 5pm when I taught in Baltimore. Every once in awhile we would see a student with their family eating there. (Irish pub) I can’t remember perfectly ;) but I think we just kind of avoided eye contact. It is better for everyone involved that way! ha

    Clearly, teachers were seeing MANY of their students with their parents at the beer garden. I think if the teachers feel uncomfortable, they need to find another place to drink.

    However, the separate point is that it sounds like the majority of parents were allowing their kids to treat the place like their own backyard. Throwing rocks? Not wearing shoes? Yelling? C’mon now. Those parents should have been asked directly to keep their kids at their own table by the manager from the start.

    And I hear you about the guys being drunk and inappropriate. I wouldn’t want my kids around that! But then again, I wouldn’t bring my kids to a bar at 9 pm! Hello! People don’t think.

    My issue is that I WOULD like to be able to bring my kids out for dinner at a reasonable hour, like 5 or 6 pm if they are behaving correctly.

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