My wife and I love a certain bar in our neighborhood. It’s really more of a tavern, I guess, because it has deep-fried bar food and surprisingly decent pizza, in addition to TVs and happy hour specials and all that. My question is: Is it weird to bring our kid—he’s 8—to the bar? It would be a lot easier than finding a babysitter, but would his presence bother other people? I think he’d be well-behaved, and we definitely wouldn’t go late at night, but I don’t want to annoy people at a place we really like going.
Dad With Doubts
Dear Dad With Doubts,
The can of worms, you’ve opened it. Questions like this depend on so many factors—how, in fact, well-behaved your kids is; how rowdy the crowd is at this bar; whether it has table/booth seating where you could tuck away, etc.
I don’t have any kids of my own, so you can call me biased if you want. But I think the fact that you are unsure in the first place means you’ve probably not seen a lot of kids in this bar before, which ups the likelihood that you’d be swimming into uncharted waters. Depending on the type of bar, some of your fellow adults might feel like having a kid there cramps their style.
Of course, you can bring your kid, I guess, unless there’s a policy against it. In some places, kids aren’t allowed to sit at the bar, and I think that’s a generally good rule of thumb anyway, since bar seats are often at a premium. If your kid’s sipping milk, best not to occupy a barstool.
If there are quiet booths in the corner, though, and you’d be away from most of the hockey-screaming, shots-taking crowds, then I think you might be fine. The presence of food also mitigates the straight bar-ness of the bar, too. I’d still suggest that earlier in the evening is better; I’d personally be weirded out to see a kid in a bar after 8 p.m.
For the sake of other adults, do everything you can to keep your kid occupied and not running around, if he’s prone to that. Screen time is bad, blah blah, but if a movie or book or game keeps him from disturbing other people, then I say treat it as a special indulgence this time.
There’s a ton of gray area here, clearly. You know the bar better than I do, so I’d say to go with your gut feeling on this one. The stakes, as you said, are pretty high: Is it worth the potential discomfort at a place you really like?
To wrap up, I’m gonna use the Supreme Court’s pornography rule-of-thumb: When it comes to kid-friendly bars, you’ll know it when you see it.
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