Natasha Young's six-week-old son wasn't ordering off the menu at Cosmo's Restaurant in Croyden. But his mom still had to pay about $5 just to keep him on her lap at the table at England's largest eatery. Another new mom, Ana Sheridan, was told the same thing when she brought her 6-month-old daughter to the same restaurant.
Read more on extreme restaurant policies on kids here.
"I was astonished as we explained she was exclusively breastfed and would be sitting on our laps, therefore not consuming any food or occupying an extra seat. They said it was their new policy. That was all," Sheridan told London's Evening Standard.
After an uproar over Cosmo's baby tax policy erupted in parenting forums around the Web, the restaurant posted a public apology to both women on their website for the "mistreatment by our staff."
In the same message, management also clarified their baby fee was only supposed to apply to toddlers who are actually eating the restaurant's food, not those who are swaddled in blankets, clamoring for breast-milk. "COSMO would like to assure customers that this is an isolated incident," writes Cosmo's management. "We will be retraining all employees at Croydon as a matter of urgency."
[See also: Is it fair to ban kids from restaurants?]
Maybe it was all a misunderstanding, but through this incident, a larger message was broadcast: Parents with young kids aren't going to take being penalized any longer. The recent trend in kid-free zones and bans on toddlers in restaurants has sparked a backlash. Many parents feel marginalized, even bullied when they take their toddlers out to a restaurant. While they may have gotten used to fellow patrons complaining about their crying babies, being charged extra for the privilege is the last straw.
Earlier this year, at a restaurant in the town of Bath, a group of moms were charged about $3 each for bringing in baby food as opposed to ordering off the children's menu. One message-board mom called the idea of a baby corkage fee "disgusting." Another wrote: "They don't charge for breastfeeding but it's probably only a matter of time!" Two weeks after the story erupted, the Bath restaurant withdrew of its baby fee and donated the profits made off of the surcharge to charity.
It was a victory for long-scorned parents and a battle cry to other establishments considering similar policies. So when word got out of Cosmo's baby charge a few months later, tempers really flared. "Shocking and shame on the management," writes one commenter on the Evening Standard's article. "You might as well charge a pregnant women for taking up extra space."
But not every parent sees it the same way. The Guardian's Hilary Osbourne defends Cosmo's staff for charging customers a baby fee. "As a parent, I know that once babies start weaning they can make a mess, and I can see why restaurants might want to charge for having to clean up after someone who is probably eating something their parents brought from home," she writes.
Guess it all boils down to what kind of 'mess' restaurants are will to clean up: a table full of baby food or a chorus of hungry parents, fed-up with being penalized every time they bring their child out to eat. Suddenly, that table isn't looking so messy.
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