The food service industry and the dining public were split into two factions this week, after news that a restaurant in the seaside resort of Nieuwpoort had turned away a mother and child.
The incident took place at the Brasserie Sir Charles on the sea-front, which operates an adult-only policy, indicated by a sign at the entrance to the restaurant (see photo). Owner Noel Brossé explained:
“Every summer I suffer thousands of euros worth of damage caused by children,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Children who drop glasses and plates, or jump up on the chairs with their dirty shoes. And of course the parents do nothing. Look, I have nothing against children as such, but I’m sick to death of the lax attitude of parents.”
When the mother arrived with her daughter for a meal, they were informed by the server that children are not admitted. “I thought it was some kind of Candid Camera joke, but no,” she wrote in a Facebook post that was rapidly shared more than 28,000 times, arousing the ire of parents and (some) restaurant patrons.
The newspaper consulted other restaurants on the issue, and found that an explicit ban such as at the Sir Charles is a rarity in Belgium, although it is commonplace in the Netherlands and Germany. But the sentiment is more common. While top chef Luc Bellings welcomes one and all, three-star chef Peter Goossens has no ban on children at his Hof Van Cleve, although the €260 five-course set lunch menu might turn out to be deterrent enough.
While one restaurateur in Leuven described junior patrons as “snot-nosed mini-hooligans,” the president of the NSZ, which represents small businesses, was more diplomatic.
“We realise that restaurant owners sometimes have to bite their tongues when parents refuse to step in when their children turn the place upside down,” said Christine Mattheeuws. “But refusing children is a bit drastic. If you turn away children, you’re also turning away parents and families. If someone can’t come and eat with heir children, they probably won’t choose to come when they’re by themselves. Owners have to fight for every customer, and let’s not forget that restaurants in Flanders are the second most affected sector when it comes to bankruptcies.”