Restaurant's Loud Kids Ban May Sound Harsh, but Is It Legal? - Free Enterprise
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Restaurant's Loud Kids Ban May Sound Harsh, but Is It Legal?

Business owners may often endure screaming children alongside paying customers, but they may not have to.

A Northern California restaurant heard an awful lot of complaints after it posted a sign announcing its new policy: No loud kids in the dining room. According to Monterey's KSBW-TV, the Old Fisherman's Grotto restaurant in the city's historic Old Fisherman's Wharf has also barred strollers, high chairs, and booster chairs.

Can your business put a loud-kids ban like this in place?

  • Need legal advice on how your small business should operate? Consult with an experienced business attorney about your options.

Keeping It Classy... and Legal

Entrepreneurs who serve the general public are definitely worried about the atmosphere their businesses cultivate. Many restaurant and bar owners may be concerned that patrons will not choose to part with their hard-earned dollars unless they can relax. This was the reasoning behind Old Fisherman's Grotto's loud-child ban, with a sign proclaiming that loud children and crying babies are "a distraction to other diners."

KSBW reports that some tourists found the policy "ridiculous" or even shocking, but it isn't really that extreme. Some restaurants have successfully stopped kids from dining at their establishments altogether, and by all accounts it is legal.

So if barring any children from entering your business is legal, it seems likely that keeping loud children out should not pose a legal threat. Old Fisherman's Grotto owner Chris Shake told KSBW that he thinks customers who don't like the rules can "find a place more suitable for you." Although this rhetoric has historically been employed to justify refusing service on the basis of race, which is illegal, banning loud kids is very likely legal.

However...

Vague Policy May Be Difficult to Enforce

While it's likely legal to have a loud-kids ban in your business, the wording of your policy may make for future legal problems.

If a policy allows a business to boot kids for being "loud," it gives employees and managers a great deal of discretion in determining which kids (and by extension, families) to bounce. Even if you have the legal right to refuse service, business owners don't want to be accused of having a loud-kids ban as a smokescreen for bigotry.

To reduce this liability, you'll want to make your policy as free from interpretation as possible. For example, if screaming babies are a worry, then a business may try barring children under age 6 -- although barring children entirely would accomplish a similar result.

Keep in mind, though, that even a legal policy on loud kids can have a devastating effect on customer goodwill.

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