Marketing

'Pubs are for adults': Is it fair to ban children?

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Pubs are for adults': Is it fair to ban children?

Related tags: Good pub guide, Pleading, Public house

Many licensees face a dilemma when considering banning children: Some customers want an exclusively grown-up environment, away from pushchairs and babies, whereas others embrace a family-friendly atmosphere.

So what should publicans consider when mulling over a ban?

The Good Pub Guide 2016 reported screaming babies and disruptive children to be pub-goers’ biggest complaint, but a ban inevitably leads to fierce opposition.

‘Pathetic and unfriendly’

Soon after taking over the Brewers Arms in West Malvern, Worcestershire, licensee Chris Tandy was forced to reverse a decision to ban children after angry reactions from customers.

Tandy banned children from the bar area - which he described as an “adult environment”.

Customer Phil Ward described the decision as “commercial suicide”; while Mal Edgson said it was “pathetic and unfriendly”.

Outraged drinkers took the pub’s Facebook page to plead for the licensee to change his decision.

Amy Rainbow said: “Please could you rethink this new policy? As others have said, The Brewers has long been the centre of village life where everyone could mix. Wouldn't a curfew work?”

Change in policy

The page saw a barrage of sustained complaints, after which the licensee opted to rethink the ban.

“In response to the comments regarding children, we have decided to allow well behaved, accompanied children into the bar area up until 6pm,” Tandy said.

“This will be at the management’s discretion.”

But many still feel the Brewers Arms’ U-turn hasn’t gone far enough.

‘Divisive policy’

Anna Fiddler said 6pm is too early, and a curfew made her feel unwelcome.

And Tim White said: “This is now a child unfriendly pub. Would love to support this place but as long as this divisive policy remains in place will take my business elsewhere.”

Jill Aberle added: “For a family that regularly visits with children and dogs after a walk on the hills it is a real shame this is no longer an option. I feel it is a real mistake and will turn many people away.”

But many regulars do support the licensee’s decision.

Compromise

Liz Bridges agreed watching rugby in the pub should be an adult environment.

And Anna Brook added: “Thanks for the compromise Chris, which should mean most kids can enjoy the Brewers over the weekends too, and come up for Sunday lunches.”

No damage to trade

Despite the prediction a ban could be detrimental commercially, pubs have not always suffered from a ban.

Trade has been as good as ever at The Waterfront in Burton-on-Trent​ since a ban for children younger than five.

Manager Megan Morrish told the PMA​: “I’m aware that some people were not happy when we introduced our no under fives policy, but the move was applauded and welcomed by others, including couples with young children.”

The pub suffered recurring issues with parents refusing to move high chairs, prams and pushchairs which were blocking fire exits.

The Waterfront has retained family business on Saturday and Sunday, and allows children older than 14 to eat after 7pm if accompanied by an adult.

Mixed reaction

Customer Lydia Worthington had mixed feelings about the decision: “The issue is that if you want to go there as a family for lunch you can’t. Personally I think it’s cliquey behaviour at best.”

But many supported the Waterfront’s decision.

Pauline Hodkinson posted on Facebook: “Pubs are for adults not unruly children. I accept that most children are well behaved but some parents can't be bothered to control their children's behaviour and so others are then subjected to a barrage of noise, shouting, screaming and running about and that is unfair.”

'Couldn't wait to leave'

Shelly Denholme agreed: “We have gone for a meal and all we've had is kids running about screaming and all the parents were doing was laughing and getting drunk.

“The staff asked them five times while we were there to please control the children, but the parents were too busy with their beers.

“We couldn't wait to leave and when we did the poor staff apologised because of the noise.”

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