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.

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.

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.

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”.

Comments (21) Add New Comment
It's like people who bring small children to late movies. They start making noise, you can't focus on the film and you get mad. I had to leave an Italian restaurant in Vancouver because people brought small children. I don't understand what people are thinking bringing small children to any fine dining place, performing arts, or movie theatres. Smacks of entitlement. If you can't afford/find a babysitter, then don't go out, or go somewhere where you won't be bothering others who have paid top dollar to have a pleasant experience which is immediately destroyed by a screaming kid.
Rating: +38
I generally like kids, and I know they can be difficult from time to time. There is a time and a place to leave the kids at home. Fine dining is one of them. Parents have to understand that not everyone wants kids, not everyone is at a point in their relationships where they are ready for kids, and fine dining more often than not is a special event.

While you might want to take your kids with you everywhere, you also need to think of how their actions, might affect those you will be spending an evening around.

Also if it's in reason I don't see why it should be discrimination to ban children, and have adult-only spaces. Coffee shops, and many restaurants are casual, and cater to everyone, but pubs, lounges, and fine dining restaurants are not. They cultivate atmospheres of maturity, or an immaturity children should simply not be privy to.
Rating: +18
Get over it
Who are these people who drag their kids to such inappropriate places?
Here's a thought; if you can't find a sitter, STAY HOME WITH YOUR KIDS! Or, take them somewhere THEY enjoy. If you think your life will not change after having kids, give your head a shake and grow the hell up! Your life will be irrevocably changed, forever. Not for the worse, just different.
It takes a few short years to raise kids. If you cannot, or will not alter or curb your social life for that time, do not have kids. If you can't put them first, you should not have them. Grow up, get responsible, and get over yourselves!
Rating: +30
Cate and Hm, of course you are right in the sense of manners and propriety, but what about the law? Should it be lawful to ban kids from fine dining places?

I suppose we ban them from horror movies, but that's so that adults may revel in debasement, cruelty, and misogyny free from the judgement of their children. Whereas the sample image from Alinea above would not shock them - they love to eat disgusting, wrong-looking food like that.

Rating: -23
Its not even a debate. Its common knowledge not to bring kids to fine dinning. Ill go further and say its common knowledge not to bring babies to places like the Cactus club or the Keg. That said you cant fix stupid so people will still do it from time to time.

The Spaghetti Factory is the type of place I would expect to see babies and kids.

News flash to anyone with babies: We don't think they are cute. For the most part they annoy us. That goes for your older kids too.

Rating: +31
I fully support banning children from fine-dining establishments. I don't care how special or precious or wonderful you think your child is - I don't want it around while I'm trying to enjoy a meal in a high-class establishment. If you absolutely must drag your offspring out for a meal, take it to White Spot or some other place where they bring crayons and paper mats for scribbling. Keep going there until your child reaches 18.

I also support child-free apartments/condos, shops, and cafes. At least in pubs (for now) children aren't permitted entry so I can enjoy a night of pints in peace.
Rating: +4
I think it can be hard on babies to be brought to environments like that one, but in my family at least, the kids are all exposed to a variety of situations starting from the time they're toddlers. My parents had no issues with us and the current generation of kids are the same. I really think it depends on temperament and training, so parents should be allowed to make their own judgements in this regard.
Rating: -9
Must comment on this
News flash NB, some adults are annoying at restaurants too. I'm talking to you loud talkers.

Cactus Club and the Keg? They both provide crayons and paper because they know who their customers are.
Rating: +11
It's irritating as hell at the best of times even at a fast food restaurant....especially when the parents act oblivious to the ear-piercing wails of the kid and all the other patrons sitting nearby.

Do not bring a fricken 1000 decibel baby into a restaurant!
Rating: +4
Ban the babies , maybe it's politically incorrect but I hate when I go to a pub or tasting lounge ( brewery) and there's guys there w a baby strapped to their dude leave your snotty lil kid at home. Sure I can see having toddlers there if the establishment provides a play space like in Europe but otherwise the kids get bored they cry they act out and no one likes to listen to that's.people w babies think everyone wants to hold their baby or think their baby's all that, and guess what it's just not true. Your baby looks like a frozen chicken and no one gives a crap about it so get over it. As for this particular instance if I was a client there that night I'd be mighty pissed and demand a partial refund of such a high price , the expectation when you pay that kind of cash is you will have an intimate ,awesome experience , not be subjected to a baby screaming.
Rating: +1
I think a good guideline to follow would be whether or not the restaurant offers a kids' menu: no kids' menu = no kids. Then parents & other customers know what to expect.
Rating: 0
@ cb
Haha, you just refered to yourself as a client at a tasting lounge.
Rating: -1
Nosoop Foyoo
There are some dimsum restaurants in Richmond that can easily drown out the sounds of a screaming kid. You can't even hear yourself think let alone have a conversation with your date. An irritable baby might just fit in.
Rating: -7
Why? Why?? Why??? Why would anyone bring a baby to such a place? The baby can't appreciate it, no more than it appreciates "listening" to Mozart in the womb. It is just a screaming lump to the rest of us; and obviously just a piece of luggage to the parent. Grow up! ! !
Rating: +9
My feelings exactly.

Also, if you bring your kids into an adult space (such as bars with a restaurant license) don't expect me to watch my mouth. I'm conscious of this in public spaces, public transit, family restaurants/events etc, but if you bring your children somewhere whose primary purpose is to serve alcohol then you only have yourself to blame if they pick up any new words or phrases*...

*That doesn't apply to any discriminatory/hateful language. I mean things that a reasonable but non-prudish person might expect to hear at a bar that they wouldn't want their kids to be exposed to.
Rating: +3
Also, on a somewhat opposite note; what is with people on public transit who think it's acceptable to use misogynistic (eg referring to a woman/women as "slut/s" or "whore/s") or overtly sexual/foul language? I can even understand the latter when it's the 1:15am skytrain on Friday night, but during early evening rush hour? No one thinks your cool and no one wants to hear your dumb, offensive (only because the content of what you're saying is driven by the fact that you're a sh*tty person) conversations. Get a life!
Rating: +9
There are some places kids simply do not belong and that is entirely reasonable. If a child is not old enough to keep control or if you want to let him/her run around and play get a baby sitter or choose a "family" restaurant. I worked in fine dining years ago and ended up on workers comp with torn knee ligaments thanks to a free-range child jumping out from under his parents' table. This was after the parents were asked to keep the child seated at the table.
Rating: +13
I Hate Baby Haters
Let me state first that I am a parent who would not take my kids into a fine dining establishment. That said, it always astounds me what a baby-hating society we have in this city, and they always come out of the woodwork with stories like these. I can't tell you how nice and civilized it is travelling to societies that love children--Italy, Latin America, Spain, etc. i'll never forget rolling my stroller up to a wine bar patio in Rome and sipping while he slept. The haters in Vancouver would have shot me dirty looks. Props to all the restaurants that make us feel welcome, and god help those of you that hate kids so much--what does that say about this place? god.
Rating: +18
When my kids were little, we took them to lots of restaurants. We packed amusements, and taught them to always say please and thank you. They stayed in their seats, were courteous and on many occasions, were better-behaved than the nearby adults. Once we took them to Rain City Grill for lunch. While initially we got dirty looks, I knew my kids would be polite and well-behaved...and they were. Big smiles for us and for them. Not all kids are badly-mannered, and if mine had been, I never would have taken them there in a million years. They're almost adults now, and still know how to behave in a restaurant.

It bugs me that people will paint broad strokes and damn all kids, when some have been raised to be respectful and polite. Sheesh.
Rating: +5
Hey I hate baby haters, none of these people have said they hate babies, they and I feel that there should be places that people should not bring children to because they can be noisy and ruin an expensive and classy dinner that is a rare treat. If spent a bunch of money on a nice dinner only to have to listen to a screaming infant the whole time I'd be upset too. I don't happen to have kids, but I and others that choose not to have children are not automatically baby haters. I just don't like how certian parrnts think that if you don't reproduce that there is something wrong with you.
Rating: +2


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