The Tantrum: Do Children Belong in Bars?

January 18th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  6 Comments

(This is the Tantrum, in which the four Dadwagon editors debate an important, or sometimes pointless, issue in parenthood.)

In New York City, there are many ways of getting attention. Some are hard, like rescuing someone who’s fallen onto the subway tracks or spending $185 per vote to get yourself re-elected mayor. Some, however, are beyond easy—like complaining about babies in Brooklyn bars.

This happens every couple of years. A bar bans strollers, and suddenly the blogs and mainstream media become an echo chamber of uninformed opinion. This year, the kick-off comes from Park Slope resident Risa Chubinsky, who declares, “I refuse to share my bar space — the last refuge for single Slopers — with infants.” And so, into the echo chamber! Do children belong in bars?

Abso-fucking-lutely. Oh, wait, you said in bars? I thought you said behind bars! [Ba-dum ching!] Okay, but still, let’s look at the arguments against them first, pulling from Ms. Chubinsky’s piece:

• “If I go to the bathroom to correct my wayward mascara at the end of a long weekend night, I don’t want to watch a baby being wiped down on the soggy sink counter.”

This makes no sense. So what if you see a baby getting wiped down or hear a kid whining? Lots of things happen in bars that we don’t want to see or hear—makeout sessions, dumb jokes, vomiting, Brazilian models discussing their taxes (seriously, that took all the allure out of Brazilian models for me). You either tune them out, or you go elsewhere. But getting annyoed at the mere presence of something? Learn to deal, babe.

• “No matter what breeders might think, bars are not family-friendly.”

Now, I’m not really sure what she means by family-friendly. If she means that toddlers may discover electrical sockets, dark corners, dust, lit candles and other hazards, then no, they may not be not family-friendly. But those are things parents watch for. If, on the other hand, she means the presence of alcohol, and of people consuming it, then once again I’m perplexed. Or rather, driven to make an argument: that watching adults drink—and behave like adults—is a Good Thing.

Back in Amherst, Massachusetts, my parents often took us to dinner at a place called simply The Pub, and while waiting for food to arrive, I’d often wander over to the bar area, where the videogames were, and watch older people talk, drink, flirt, and play pool. I looked at the little plastic tubs of maraschino cherries and cocktail onions. I saw frothy pitchers of beer. My parents would drink too, but not get drunk. Consequently, I like to think, alcohol never seemed like that big a deal—something to indulge in, if I wanted, or just ignore. And in fact, I didn’t drink a drop till I turned 21, and have drunk (mostly) responsibly ever since.

• Ms. Chubinsky winds up the piece by imagining herself “maybe 15 years in the future, happily sipping my suds with friends at a neighborhood bar. We would be pretty much the same then as we are now — loud, maybe a little raucous, thankful for the escape from reality and happy in the knowledge that our children and their sitters were safe at home, where they belonged.”

So, I’m supposed to get a sitter every time I want to go out for a little while? Wow, okay, I’m down with that if Ms. Chubinsky can recommend someone who’s affordable and available all the time. But what if, as is often the case, it’s 5:30, the nanny has just left, my wife’s not home for another 90 minutes, and I haven’t left the apartment in 72 hours because I’ve been working nonstop?

And so, here’s the point: Just because you have children doesn’t mean you’ve exiled yourself from society. Bars are places to relax with a drink, yes, but they’re also places to feel connected to the world around you, to meet new people and share experiences. If kids, from a very young age, can see bars that way, rather than as places simply to get smashed and sob about break-ups, then maybe it’ll do something about the serious drinking problem this country has. And to that I raise my glass.

Caveats: If your kid is crying or causing trouble, take them home. If it’s after 8pm, take them home. If you’re getting too tipsy, take them home (in a cab or subway).


  1. marina says:

    January 24th, 2010at 11:48 am(#)

    Something tells me Europeans have never had this debate. The land of the free seems to create people who want everyone else to agree with their preferences.


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