Should children be allowed in pubs?

Last minute visit to the pub on the way to the ceremony.
Some people might say pubs aren't appropriate spaces for young children. (Getty Images)

What began as a seemingly innocuous post about a pub on Twitter has ignited a fierce debate about whether pubs and other similar venues should allow children.

The post that started it all came from an X user named Kyle, who shared a photograph of himself posing next to a chalkboard sign outside a pub that read: "Dog friendly. Child free."

He captioned the image: "Found my new local." The post quickly went viral, garnering more than 3,300 replies and over 18,000 quotes as people shared their own strong opinions about pubs that don’t accommodate children.

Some people disagreed wholeheartedly with the idea that a pub or venue would exclude children, and therefore, parents. One person wrote: "Banning children is banning parents. This disproportionately affects women."

Another opined: "There is something so sinister about denying parents with kids public spaces, but at the same time, making everything accessible to f***ing dogs."

On the other side of the divide, people argued that keeping some child-free spaces is valuable to many adults and that pubs may not always be the best place for kids to roam around in.

Young handsome dad enjoying a glass of beer, looking at food menu with his lovely daughter in restaurant joyfully.
But others argue that no establishment should exclude certain groups of people, including children and their parents. (Getty Images)

“When it comes to breweries or bars (areas that are clearly very much adult spaces even if kids can technically come), I understand people not wanting to deal with screaming kids while they’re trying to toss ‘em back in a space geared towards of-age activities,” one person wrote.

Another said: “A lot of people are mad about this and I just don’t understand. Children are not excluded from society, majority of places are kid-friendly, what’s the big deal of a quiet, child-free place? It doesn’t mean you hate children or want them banned from society, that is so dramatic.”

The presence of children in UK pubs is a relatively recent development. Before 1995, children under the age of 14 were legally not allowed in pubs in England and Wales.

These days, under the law, pubs and restaurants are able to operate their own policies relating to children. This means they can choose to require accompanied children to leave by a certain time, or to not allow children at all.

We turned to the experts to find out whether children should be allowed in pubs, and how the debate between parents and child-free adults turned so heated.

‘We could do better with child-friendly spaces’

Happy girl having fun while eating lunch with her parents in a restaurant.
Venues could introduce designated spaces for children to play, parenting expert Amanda Jenner suggests. (Getty Images)

Leading parenting expert Amanda Jenner, author of Potty Training Magic, tells Yahoo UK that while there are plenty of pubs and venues that allow children, some places could improve on the space to give kids more room to play.

"Most pubs have play areas outside, but in the UK with our lovely, glorious rain, they can’t always go out and use those spaces, so I think we could do better inside.

"Everyone deserves to have a break and to go out and enjoy life. If there was a designated area in pubs, restaurants and cafes for children with a bit of soft play, some books, I think that would be a really great thing for people to introduce, you can have the best of both worlds."

Going out to establishments like pubs and restaurants can be vital places for children to learn social skills and manners, particularly after the Covid lockdown when many children were affected from being kept away from social situations.

I don’t think children should be banned from pubs, but I don’t think you should have a child in a pub at 9pm at night

However, Jenner also believes that parents need to be able to "read the room" and know when it’s time to take their children home. As evening sets in and pubs become more lively - and possibly rowdy - with drinkers, the environment can become inappropriate for children.

"There’s a certain cut-off point where I think parents should say, ‘Right, it’s time to go’," she says. "You know it’s going to get rowdy, people are going to be drunk, it’s not a great time for children to be there around potentially inappropriate behaviour and language.

"I don’t think children should be banned from pubs, but I don’t think you should have a child in a pub at 9pm at night."

Parents must also take responsibility for their children’s behaviour, Jenner says, adding: "It is down to the parents to teach them that, when they are in those environments, they can’t be running around and spoiling it for other people who don’t have children.

"It’s really important as a parent to teach your children manners when you’re out and about."

‘I actively avoid going anywhere where children are allowed’

Group of friends at a pub having a discussion while drinkings beeers
Some spaces are valuable because they aren't child-friendly, says Jane Hawkes. (Getty Images)

On the other side of the coin is Jane Hawkes, a child-free travel blogger and consumer champion who goes by the moniker Lady Janey. Hawkes has written about her choice to remain child-free and says she prefers going to establishments that aren’t kid-friendly.

"I will actively avoid going anywhere where they allow children and if I do go, I always try to be seated away from them. It tends to ruin my experience," she explains.

"Some places are less upfront about not allowing children than others. I’ve noticed some pubs and establishments not catering for children rather than having a blanket ban, so that they put parents off going there. Perhaps that’s a less offensive approach."

Hawkes points out that, usually, children themselves are not the problem - parents are. "We have a lot of responsible parenting going on, but we also have a lot of irresponsible parenting. Many of them are too busy enjoying the experience of being out and about themselves and letting their children run around being an inconvenience and nuisance to everyone else. That really makes me prefer a child-free space.

"I have friends that have children and when they go out, they don’t necessarily want other people’s children around them. If they’re going out on a date, they don’t want to go somewhere with lots of children - so there’s a lot of value in keeping some child-free spaces that way."

If I do go to a place with children, I always try to be seated away from them

Commenting on how a post about a singular child-free pub spiralled into a massive online debate, Hawkes believes that many people were offended by the pub allowing dogs and not children into the premises.

"I have dogs, and to be honest, my dogs are better-behaved than some children that I’ve witnessed in some instances," she admits. "I do think there’s space for everyone. Perhaps pubs who rely on business from families can have offers earlier in the day so that parents and families go then.

"And those who don’t wish to be around children can dine out later in the hope that the children will have gone home. You’d get the best of both worlds that way."

At the end of the day, Hawkes believes it is the right of the establishment to decide who they want to cater for. "They shouldn’t be vilified for taking that stance," she adds.

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