San Francisco has plenty of ultra-hip parents these days, and with the encroachment of rock shows and art events for the younger set, a new locale is emerging as the Final Frontier of family fun: the local watering hole. Buoyed by recent memories of their salad days and recession-induced frustration at dropping a boatload of cash on a babysitter, parents are bringing their babies into locales that were once their meat markets. As with everything involving urban children these days, this has provoked some heated opinions, from parents defending their need for a post-baby social life to childfree advocates decrying the presence of breastfeeding at the bar. To help ease this conflict, we've devised a few ground rules, based on the comments of numerous folks along the spectrum of the debate. You may still meet with opposition if you plop your toddler down at a bar, but if the establishment allows it, these basics should help keep parents, non-parents, and children happy.
1. If they don't serve food, don't bring Junior. Don't take our word for it-- that dictate comes straight from the state of California. Establishments that serve alcohol in addition to food (and we're not talking just potato chips) are allowed to admit children; serious, drinking-only bars are not. While that nice bar down the street may allow you to skirt this rule, don't get indignant if they won't admit you: they could face losing their liquor license for a month.
2. The bar is not your babysitter. Not paying for a babysitter doesn't mean you can sign up the rest of the establishment for the job. Keep your kids by your side and away from other patrons; tears and tantrums should be taken outside. If a patron or staffer shows a genuine interest in your child, feel free to exercise your judgment and let them play with the person, but no matter how cute your little one is, assume that they will need to be 100% in your control unless proven otherwise.
3. When it's their bedtime, it's yours, too. Parents of babies and young children should plan on getting them to sleep at a decent hour, which means kids shouldn't be out on the town any later than 7 or 8 in most cases. Even if the baby is slumbering away in his car seat or stroller, do you really want to take the risk that some loud patron will have him waking up screaming?
4. Be a mindful stroller user. We know that big stroller helps keep the little one from feeling the bumps of city streets. But make sure it's out of the way. Not only is it not fun for people to maneuver around, it could pose a fire hazard, which could, in turn, mean a fine for the restaurant.
5. No kids? Be considerate. If parents are obeying rules 1-4, those seated near a little one should do their best in turn. Ratchet down volume, cursing, cigarette smoke, and other potential annoyances; if you can't, and it's possible, move. If conflict arises, a polite word to the bartender, server, or manager can help dissuade face-to-face aggression by redirecting the problem to a neutral party. Parents should also be aware that there are some people who just don't like kids, even if yours are veritable angels. Most of the world doesn't have it out for you or your baby, but if you feel you're making a real effort to be considerate and responsible and someone still gives you trouble, try to take it in stride.
6. If a car is involved, drink responsibly or bring a designated driver. This is a no-brainer for most people, but with precious cargo in the backseat, take extra care.
Do you think these rules are reasonable? What would you add or subtract? Any bars you love for their family-friendliness, or lack thereof? Let us know in the comments.