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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Saturday, 2 January 2010

Pubs and who they let in - a quick poll

Happy New Year!

Had a very pleasant New Year's Day in The Spaniards, Hampstead - the pub I discovered in September at the Flying Dog event, and subsequently named in The Guardian as my perfect Boxing Day pub (which it subsequently was - we had a fantastic meal, great Christmas beers, and Richard and Judy were in there, with Judy wearing a huge pair of sunglasses, and even putting on reading glasses over the top of them to read the menu).

So we went back, and got there early to get a table, and enjoyed a very fine afternoon.

The sheer demand for tables meant there was a deal of tension in the air, with people repeatedly asking us how long we were going to be and attempting to nick a chair every time someone went to the loo.

But what made it really irritating was the constant screaming of bored kids, and the fact that a woman behind me repeatedly rammed my chair with a pushchair containing a fractious baby.

Now, I don't have children - but I do have a dog. And one of the Spaniard's many, many qualities in my eyes is that it's the most dog-friendly pub I've ever been to. So I have a big personal bias: I regard a pub as being a bit stuck-up if they don't allow dogs in - especially those who claim it's against health and safety regulations or even against the law, which it just isn't - it's your decision who and what you let in your own pub and I respect that, but don't lie to me - just have the balls to say you don't want dogs in.

But I get irritated by kids in pubs. Or more accurately, by the parents of kids in pubs: parents who think it's OK to wheel in a double-width push chair and leave it in the aisle. Parents who ignore their children and let them run around screaming, and smile at you when the kid runs past your table and spills your drink as if to say "Aren't they adorable?" No, they're really irritating. And parents who keep kids in the pub long after their bedtime, so they get grizzly and fractious - not fair on the kids, nor the rest of us. Living in a borough with a very high concentration of young kids, the joy of the pub is in part for me that it is an adult environment. That it should feel like a kindergarten is just wrong.

So my perfect pub would allow dogs, and ban kids.

But Orwell argued that kids should be allowed in pubs because pubs should be wholesome, universal centres of the community, and banning kids helps turn them into male-only drinking dens - his experience of such places was that if the bloke is in the pub, the woman has to stay at home looking after the kids. I see his point, and would agree with his view were it not for personal experience.

And anyone who saw Captain pissing territorially on the 17th century pillar in the front bar of the Spaniard's yesterday would be well within their rights to argue that dogs are unhygienic and should be barred from any eating and drinking space. (He doesn't normally do it, but there were lots of other dogs around, and some were cuter than him, which he hates. It makes him feel insecure.)

So am I just swayed by my personal circumstances?

Should the ideal pub bar children, dogs, or both? Or should it be as inclusive as possible and allow both?

I've set up a little poll over there----> and would love to hear your views. If you leave a comment about this, please say if you have kids and/or dogs of your own, so we can see if our own situation dictates our views.

34 comments:

Ed said...

It's a debate we're having for when we re-open. Too many times we've had to ask parents to tell their children not to throw stones at the fish in the pond.

It looks like we're going for the 'no under 8s' style - we just don't have room for pushchairs in the pub! Irony is, my son is nearly 2 and is often with me, mum or his grandma up there.

But like you say, it's not always the children's fault. It's the parents. For that same reason, dogs will always be welcome - dog owners are a lot more aware of their responsibilities (in my experience)

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

have spent a very pleasant few days in and out of my local with James (11) in tow, he sits there with his PSP, asks for a lemonade as I stand gossiping at the bar and that’s that — he’s been in pubs since he was a month old and doesn’t see them as special, there are some pubs I wouldn’t take him to, and I ocmpletely share your irritation about parents who don’t realise that for their kids to be in the pub means that they should behave. It’s not black and white and maybe you could argue that the behaviour you saw is part of a bigger issue in society, ie parents unwilling to discipline their kids or set boundaries.
as for dogs, it’s again dependant on the dog, our old boxer was brilliant in pubs, but our Parson Jack Russell is a nightmare and I have banned him from every pub in the country.
Happy New Year BTW.
Used to drink in the Spaniards in the late 1980s, was always a good un, I think the 192 (?) from Finsbury Park used to stop nearby.

Brew Wales said...

I blame the parents for the bad behaviour of their kids in pubs. You don't see this type of bad behaviour on the continent. Have been in pubs in Munich where parents are there with their offspring until 10pm and the sprogs are sat down behaving well and not running around like the feral brats are over here.

Barm said...

Kids and dogs aren't the issue. Kids, dogs and/or adults who can't behave are what drives me to leave or avoid a pub. Like the group of six grown-up people shouting at each other in an otherwise quiet pub yesterday. Fortunately they left soon after we arrived.

This Beer said...

I voted to allow kids and dogs in the pub. I have both, and I'd be comfortable taking both because I know neither would act like animals. It all comes down to discipline. There's nothing worse than a disobedient dog - the same goes for children. While you can't help the parents/owners of either when they leave your pub, you can set the boundaries they lack while they are there. This could be as easy as stating the rules of the pub in clear view in a way that shows you're inclusive of both categories of patrons, while laying out the rules for their presence. Something like a sign on the door that says "all animals to be kept on leashes and in your control at all times - this goes for the two-legged variety, also."

Abaddon the scrivener said...

ell-behaved kids and dogs - fine; badly-behaved kids and dogs - no. Same with adults, really!

The Beer Widow said...

It wasn't a full pee, it was a tiddle, and he knew he'd been a bad boy because he legged it straight back under a chair looking sheepish. Anyway, it's our fault because we didn't get him a doggy-Barbour to wear like all the other doggies.

On the kids / parents front, my particular favourite was the woman with the strangulated vowels and that weird sort of lispy thing that people do to try and sound posher, who indignantly came back from the bar braying that she wasn't prepared to pay £1.30 for a bag of crisps and £2 for a half thenk-yew, then left with her revolting kids and got into a brand new Lexus 4x4. The Spaniards is great - it's just a shame about the locals.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

Barbour-wearing dogs! Confirms all my prejudices about city-living dog-owners, get Captain ratting, he’ll soon cheer up! ;-)

Kristy said...

As an owner of dogs and kids I wouldn't allow either into your typical pub.

No matter how well behaved the child and parent are (we are both impeccably behaved, the dog less so) you're always going to get some level of misbehaviour as the pub is not an environment for small children - kids (and dogs) need to run, jump and shout/bark and if you try and restrict this they'll play up. Unless the pub specifically caters for children they shouldn't be in there - and if you go in a pub that does cater for them you shouldn't moan about the behaviour.

Added to which I go to the pub to be child and dog free - last thing I want is to put up with other peoples!!

ZakAvery said...

I don't think bad behaviour should be tolerated in any species, and I think good behaviour should be rewarded.

Isn't the whole "punishing the majority for the bad behaviour of the minority" argument exactly the same as the one that is being levelled at so-called "Binge Britain" and its alcohol "problem"? Why can't it be taken on a case by case basis?

I'm a parent, and do we take our toddler to the pub. If he was acting up and screaming, I'd sure we'd want to leave just as much as everyone else would want us to (and probably would, for ours and everyones' sakes)

Curmudgeon said...

I voted yes to dogs but no to kids.

I can't remember when I was last annoyed by a dog in a pub. Kids, on the other hand...

To be honest, I'm not really that bothered about allowing kids in part of pubs, so long as they don't come near me.

What annoys me is allowing kids a free run of the whole pub.

*R* said...

Well behaved dogs - yes definitely. Children - No! it's just selfish of parents to drag their kids there. Pay a babysitter or don't go.

Mark said...

Tough one... I don't have either dogs or kids. Curmudgeon nails it: 'I can't remember when I was last annoyed by a dog in a pub. Kids, on the other hand...' But, what would annoy me more, a dog barking or a child crying?

Pubs which 'allow' kids and dogs are often pleasant places to drink as there's something cosy and welcoming about the atmosphere. Although I guess this depends more on the area than anything... (ASBOs and fighting dogs would not be nice)

I don't mind kids in the pub but then I always feel I need to watch my language or try to behave well. I don't care if I swear in front of a dog. And I'm happy to sit with a dog at my feet stroking it. If there's a kid at my feet I'll be less happy.

Horses for courses, I suppose - some pubs are set up for the family, others are not.

Eddie said...

I've got two little kids and no need for a dog - there's plenty of shit to clean up anyway.

My local bans both and it's where I go to hide. But I like a pub lunch and the kids are OK if you entertain them. You've just got to understand that a trip to the pub with the kids is not like a trip to the pub without them.

That said, it only takes one unattentive parent to spoil the occassion for the whole pub so we ought to ban them all. The parents I mean.

"Eddie Rowles" said...

Get yourself to the Nag's Head in Walthamstow where there are plenty of signs telling parents what to do (and not do) with their little darlings.

However it is more of a cat pub - not sure about their policy on dogs.

Another couple of pubs that I've found to suffer from a surfeit of yummy mummies and daddies are the Greenwich Union and the Gowlett down in SE15...

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

My daughter is 2 and a half and one of the first names she learned was "Paul" the pub owner. She comes with me earlier in the day, sits at a table (or if it's really empty the bar) and stacks coasters.

I'm not saying she's always perfect, but I don't let her get too out of hand. As a general rule I don't mind taking her when the sun is out, but not after dark, the atmosphere definitely changes.

Others have said it, it's not the kids, it's the parent. I say allow kids, allow dogs, ban strollers.

Cheers and Happy New Year from Mario and Kaleigh: http://bit.ly/7ehXxV

Pivní Filosof said...

There's a great sign that I've spotted at a small coffee shop in Prague that in Czech goes:

"Children don't belong to a café (replace by pub, restaurant, etc). If they are already in a café, they should behave. If they don't behave, it's not the children's fault, but the parents', who have not brought them up properly. Parents who don't bring up their children properly don't belong to a café".

Nice bit of wisdom

Curmudgeon said...

Now, a cat pub, that's what I'd like to see >^..^<

I have to say none of my current regular pubs have a pub cat, and that's something I miss.

Sid Boggle said...

Neither a breeder nor dog-owner, and I tend to despise the owner and enjoy the latter (and cats). I concur with the views that it isn't the brats, it's the parents, but that's our way in this country.

Parents who seem to think that, because your brats are allowed in, that somehow the pub management are suddenly in loco parentis and they can ignore or overlook little Jocasta or Guido creating mayhem. Keep 'em all out!

Derrick Peterman said...

Here in the United States, I've had plenty of good experiences taking my nine year old (with autism no less), and my seven year old to brew pubs during the day. (At night, certainly into the evening, it just isn't a good idea to have kids in pubs.) Most pubs around where I live in South San Francisco Bay have plenty of room, childrens menus, and plenty of accomodations for kids, and we have no problems, and neither do any of the other patrons. If we want the next generation to "respect beer" and support your local brewer, it would be a good idea if we allow them to watch their parents do just that.

anotherdrinkingblog said...

In all honesty I think it boils down to the owners/parents and generally owners tend to care about what their charges get up to and seem to be able to control them whilst parents in pubs generally don’t. I’m never bothered when I read that somewhere is dog friendly but make a point of avoiding, if possible, anything described as child friendly. Perhaps I’m just a grumpy old git.

I’ll add at this point that I neither own a dog nor have fathered a child (as far as I’m aware) so would like to think I have no bias either way.

Pete Brown said...

Great discussion - thanks everyone. It seems obvious from consensus that the answer is not to ban anyone, but treat every case individually.

In theory I could totally support this. The problem is, whenever I'm in a pub where parents are letting their kids run riot, I've never once seen bar staff intervene and ask them to keep their kids under control. Is that just the pubs I drink in?

Clearly those who have kids who have commented know how to keep your loved ones under control and have your own sensible methods. I think you're a self-selecting group of people who love your kids and also love pubs, so you're keenly aware of what the right balance is. If only all parents were like that.

Stono said...

didnt pubs used to have "family rooms" to get round this kind of problem with having kids in pubs, but then someone (probably a local councilor) decided it was bad if the staff couldnt see who was in the pub (in case they were upto no good), and they all got ripped out, leaving us with the current situation.

personally I hate to see parents who take their kids into pubs and just leave them sat in the corner looking bored out of their brains, whilst the parent spends the afternoon having a whale of a time standing at the bar, arguably not the kids fault, thats bad parenting, and you ban kids you just move the bad parents onto a more accommodating pub, so no-one can really win on that one I think

as for dogs, well Im against dogs in pubs, simply because there is nothing worse than going into a pub that just smells of damp dog, and Ive been in a pub once where a dog, who maybe had one too many sprouts for tea, managed to clear the whole pub of customers !!!, not the outcome the landlord had probably envisaged with a encourage dogs policy.

so my favourite pub actually does keep both kids and dogs out, but then it is partial to cats :)

Curmudgeon said...

I have seen bar staff ask parents with a child to move away from the main bar area to a part of the pub where children were welcome - see here - but I can't recall any recent example of licensee or bar staff asking parents to curb the behaviour of their offspring.

One of the most annoying things, which regrettably has become increasingly common, is children playing hand-held video games with all the attendant beeping and warbling.

Rudgie73 said...

There is another consequence of not letting kids in pubs and that is the UK's current favourite topic of binge drinking.
A familiarity with the pub (and indeed with beer) breeds a more responsible attitude when said child passes the age of 18 and gets to go on their own. I love being in Mediterranean cafes and restaurants where the kids are really part of the evening (until they fall asleep that is!).
You are right in your comment that there are shades of grey here and a sensible and responsible landlord will be able to detect these. Still one of my most painful memories of showing ourselves as a welcoming nation was sitting in an empty (I was the only customer) All Bar One opposite Smithfield market. An American couple with their 14 year old child asked whether they could eat - answer - sorry mate, no kids.
Sometimes it makes me weep!

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

Pete, it takes a village to raise a child. If my child is acting wild, I have no problem with a little correction (nothing physical) from the folks around me. How else will they learn to not bump into strangers?

Ed said...

With regards to bar staff asking parents to look after their children, in the 3 years we've had the pub we've asked more parents to leave because of not keeping control of their children than drunks, fighters etc (which we rarely get thankfully!)

We've actually had a round of applause from the other customers in the pub once - that was a surreal moment.

I suppose flexibility is the key - as Rudgie73 pointed out.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

Curmudgeon, re: handheld video games, if you are a responsible parent you should ask your own kid to turn the sound down, it drives me round the bend in the car never mind the pub.
As others have said it’s shades of grey — was in my local at 3pm today, my lad in corner on (silent) PSP, while his mate was talking with one of regulars about going beating tomorrow, all very civilised. Maybe it’s different in the countryside, though we have had an influx of holidaying townies over Xmas with kidsand loud parents who perhaps would be better off in a Charlie Chalk or a Primrose Hill gastro.
The terrier remained at home…there are some things I cannot control and he is one.

Tyson said...

Theoretically, yes, kids should be allowed into pubs as they will be regulated by their parents/bar staff. However, as we know, the reality is different.

If a pub is multi-roomed, then allocating one room as a family room is fine. Otherwise forget it. One of the worst things that has happened was when JDW changed its rules on children.

If you want to be a breeder, fine. But don't expect me to welcome you down at the Dog & Duck!

DJ said...

For me it depends on the particular establishment you go to. We have seen an explosion of 'family friendly' pubs in recent years. It this type of place I generally take my kids along, usually for a meal. I wouldn't even consider taking my kids to your typical 'local' they generally tend to be too cramped for kids inhabited by people trying to have a pint with a bit of peace. It would be a big mistake for many pubs to become too exclusive in the current climate, many more people go out as a family these days and would be unwise for most pubs to lose this business. As for dogs I would say the reverse goes for them, I wouldn't eat somewhere a dog might be sitting by the table next to me

Anonymous said...

I have 2 kids, one at 6 years old, and one at just over a year.

Because I am a very lucky man indeed, we live in close proximity to a fine gastro-pub and if we suggest to go somewhere as a family, the oldest boy wants to 'go to the pub'.

It is a family friendly environment, for a meal, or for a quiet stop-off drink.

But I wouldn't bring them in there past their bedtime - say at 9pm on a Saturday when it should generally be for adults wanting a weekend drink and to let their hair down. It changes from a family/pet environment to an adult environment later on.

I think that kids running about screaming and bumping into people should be frowned upon anywhere - from your local fast food establishment to a gastropub, restaurant or cinema.

Bailey said...

I don't mind kids in the pub. If they're going absolutely hysterically apeshit then, yeah, I can see there might be a problem, but the laughter and crying of children are natural sounds. I just tune them out and smugly congratulate myself on being a chilled out, easygoing kind of bloke.

I'm very much in favour of dogs in the pub because I can't have one at home and it's the only time I get to play with them.

Sounds like the real problem in the pub you describe is overcrowding. Sadly, any halfway decent pub in London will tend to be overcrowded most of the time.

Sevans said...

Its a parenting issue - can you not just ban the lazy/irresponsible parents?

Overtired/hyped up kids do the same thing in any restaurant/grocery store/(name your public place).

I'm lamenting just as much the lack of takeaway - sometimes we're up for the pub food, but the kids simply aren't up for being in public.

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

What Zak and Bailey said sum up my opinions. I like to think I'm a diplomatic and tolerant guy and I'm sure if my (hopefully future) kids were misbehaving I'd get them home before they caused too much annoyance. I see plenty of folk walking around being as loud as their screaming kids and often probably the cause of the screaming. When those people hit the pub then I would be tempted to walk out.