Crying baby at Alinea prompts debate on baby-ban at fine dining restaurants
If you paid more than $200 per person for dinner, would you be pissed off by the sounds of a crying baby?
That question has been floating around the food-related Twitter-verse over the past few days. On January 11, acclaimed American chef and owner of Chicago’s Alinea Grant Achatz tweeted that diners complained of a crying infant at his restaurant.
Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..— Grant Achatz (@Gachatz) January 12, 2014
Alinea isn’t any old neighbourhood eatery. It’s a three-Michelin star, fine dining establishment that has been ranked amongst the best in the world. Diners are served an 18-course prix fixe tasting menu and are charged a $210 to $265 fee upon making a reservation. While tax and gratuity are included, beverages are not and charged at the end of the meal.
At that price, it’s understandable that people go to the restaurant with high expectations, and a wailing child probably isn’t on the wish list for a special meal out.
Achatz’s tweet garnered dozens of responses, with most people agreeing that the parents should have left the baby at home.
Charge the infant for a full menu. That will stop it quickly.— Peter Sagal (@petersagal) January 12, 2014
You choose to have a child (it's not mandatory or forced on anyone), then ya give up some other things. Like dinner at Next.— Carol Blymire (@CarolBlymire) January 12, 2014
An 8mo baby doesn't belong in a fine dining restaurant. I have 2 little kids, so I know! :)— David J. Montgomery (@djmont) January 12, 2014
Speaking as a mom and a restaurant owner I would NEVER take an 8mo old to a restaurant like Alinea.— Sarah Rich (@sallyhurricane) January 12, 2014
The restaurant’s website notes that reservations are typically made at least two months in advance and that last-minute tables only become available if another patron decides to “sell” their reservation. In this case, there’s a good chance that the parents knew well in advance that they would be dining at Alinea and had the time (and money) to hire a babysitter.
@Gachatz I would not have been pleased. Unless we had a sitter, we did no fine dining when we had a child that age. Not fair to others.— Scott Edelman (@scottedelman) January 12, 2014
@Gachatz I agree 100%. Little kids do not belong in high end restaurants. And they don't want to be there either. Hire a babysitter people!— Lesley Chesterman (@lesleychestrman) January 12, 2014
I can’t think of any restaurant in Vancouver that bans babies, and one Straight staffer (and parent) pointed out that it would be discriminatory if a restaurant imposed that rule. However, there also aren’t any restaurants in the Lower Mainland similar to Alinea (we have some fine-dining restaurants, but none that have two-month-long waitlists and menus that start at $200).
The topic of whether crying babies should be allowed in certain public spaces in Vancouver has come up before. A few years ago, a woman with a breastfeeding newborn claims that she was barred from entering a Bard on the Beach production in case her baby “might make a noise”, and in an online poll, Straight readers voted that infants and young children should be barred from attending performing arts shows.
More recently, when changes that included allowing minors into pubs and legions were announced as part of B.C.’s liquor regulations, several commenters bemoaned the potential inclusion of “rugrats running around and screaming” while they enjoyed an alcoholic beverage.
Achatz’s tweet has no doubt ignited a polarizing debate, and while he might change the dining policy at his restaurant, I doubt that a baby ban would truly catch on (or that it’s an issue that many restaurants would even have to deal with). Perhaps the funniest thing to come out of all this is that someone has now created an AlineaBaby twitter account: a Chicago baby who likes “fine food, fine drinks, and crying”.