Monday, April 30, 2007

Mother Launches Campaign to Close Child-Unfriendly Restaurant.

Highchairs lead to high drama
Yvette Nishikawa has no problem with restaurants that don't cater to children, and she understands youngsters can be a pain at fine-dining establishments, but a January dining experience she had at Baltazar's restaurant in Bend pushed her to confront the issue of family-friendly eateries.
. . .
In January, Nishikawa dined at Baltazar's - a Mexican restaurant with dinner entrees ranging from $10 to $60 on Southwest Knoll Avenue off Century Drive - with her husband, her newborn and two other couples, having left her two older children at home with a baby sitter. Nishikawa asked for a highchair for her baby but was told the restaurant offers no highchairs because Baltazar's doesn't "specialize in children."

She said servers made insulting and embarrassing comments to her about bringing her baby. At the end of the night, her group of six spent around $300 on the meal, she added.

Months passed and a couple weeks ago, Nishikawa's friends prompted her to write a letter to Baltazar's, describing the incident and what she said was "outrageously rude treatment." Chavez called her back and told her that he would not offer highchairs because he wants to discourage patrons from bringing children.
. . .
"My intention was not to put Baltazar's out of business," Nishikawa said of spreading the story. "I wanted to suggest to Baltazar that he consider getting a highchair or post a sign (saying children are not allowed)."
. . .
"The issue is whether his policy is known and the way he handled it," she said. "If it's your policy, advertise it. Don't waste my time."

Chavez, a Bend father of three and grandfather of one, says he doesn't intend to post a "no children allowed" sign, hoping his lack of highchairs and printed children's menu do the trick.
. . .
Chavez said he is not anti-children, but he doesn't necessarily want them at his restaurant. He wants to make his restaurant different from other Mexican eateries by creating an intimate and high-end setting. . . .He says children create noise and mess and bother other patrons.

"You think I'm going to let infants come and trash my restaurant?" Baltazar said. "Children are welcome, but I do not have highchairs so people will understand that this is a more intimate restaurant."
. . .
Business owners can refuse to serve anyone as long as they don't discriminate against protected classes, such as ethnic or religious groups, said Elizabeth Peters, director of communications for the Oregon Restaurant Association.

If the restaurateur, in general, wants to say "no children," he can, Peters said.
It does sound like a big part of the issue here is rudeness on both sides (see article) which I hope is the real impetus behind her campaign to shut this restaurant down. And at least she acknowledges that restaurants do not have to allow children.

Should a restaurant be forced to post signs? One would hope that the not-so-subtle clues mentioned in the article would be enough to tip off patrons. After all, most restaurants with a dress code rely on ambiance and cloth tablecloths to send that message. And how much would a sign have helped here? One would assume that the request for a highchair (and thus the response that the restaurant is not child-friendly) came fairly early in the meal. Unless she had to wait for a table, a sign would not have put her on alert that much sooner.

And if she did have to wait for a table? A sign would have made it easier. However, it would make the owner far more vulnerable to attack than just the subtle clues that were used. It is women like this who would raise a stink upon seeing the sign, and force owners into more covert means. I think the real issue is that the Dines-With-Babies set needs to create a consistent policy.

And how much do you love it when parents (like the owner here) agree that an adults-only atmosphere is preferable in some cases?

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