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NO KIDS ALLOWED Preventing the ban on your kids

sylvania, declared in an email to his patrons that he would no longer per- mit children younger than six years of age to dine in his establishment, his decision made national news. “[Kids’] volume can’t be con-


trolled and many, many times they have disturbed other customers,” Vuick said, initiating a flurry of debate online and in news outlets across the U.S about the dining rights of parents and their children. True, not all children are raised on Emily Post or “Disney’s Elegant Book of Manners” (although I scored a copy of the latter at the age of four); when I heard news of the child ban, however, I wondered: How do we best teach children the requisite manners for eating in fine dining establishments? Bertrand Hug, owner of

Bertrand at Mr. A’s, suggested McDain’s new protocol is ex- treme. He believes learning the appropriate etiquette for dining out comes both from education at home and real-world experience. “We address the problems as they happen,” he said. Hug is familiar with the types of challenges dining with children can raise – most of which stem from less than savvy parents. One customer, in fact, attempted to sue the restaurant after management politely asked her to move to the patio with her two disruptive chil- dren, who scurried about, posing an imposition to other diners and a safety hazard to tray-toting servers. Admittedly, Hug noted, dis-

ruptive behavior by children and adults is rare at his Banker’s Hill establishment. “As a rule, we get extremely well-behaved children. It’s all in the education of the child. If the child is unruly, the parents realize that the other diners are being bothered. We rarely have to say something,” he said. So, let’s look to Mr. A’s for some guidance. For the last 10 years, Jerry Capozzel, the restaurant’s maître d’, has been inciting change via monthly etiquette classes taught to underprivileged teens at Mr. A’s. The classes are held in part- nership with Pro Kids, a nonprofit organization founded by late Los Angeles Charger, Ernie Hook, which provides character devel- opment, life skills and values to underserved youths.

“I go over the basics of left and right and what fork to use and what spoon and what to blow on and what napkin and that sort of thing,” he said. “I try to keep it light.” The teens are seated at a table

with all of the essentials for fine dining. The etiquette is tradi- tional: Boys learn to button their sport coat when rising and unbut- ton it when sitting. They’re told to stand when a girl or woman approaches the table. Girls are advised not to apply their makeup while at the table. Admittedly, these skills are

lacking even among most adults in America. “I often tell the kids, ‘You may see adults that don’t know what you now know, but you know the right way. [Don’t] try to follow suit,’” Capozzeli said. As you may have suspected,

children are not always to be blamed for disorderly dining de-


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hen Mike Vuick, owner of McDain’s Restaurant in Penn-

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corum. In Hug’s opinion, dining faux pas can typically be traced back to education at home. “I have seen it all in 38 years in the business,” Hug said. “It starts with the parents—educa- tion and then respect of others.” How children behave in public

is also a cultural phenomenon. Having traveled through Europe, I can attest to a difference in man- ners between children abroad

and those at home. Hug, hailing from Europe,

agrees. “In Europe, the unruly child in

a restaurant will not be tolerated. The innkeeper will just throw the whole family out. Therefore, you rarely see children,” he said. And I don’t know that it’s especially good. I think there’s a place for children and education.” Families pass down every-

thing from trinkets, good China and surnames to the next genera- tion; it’s time we do the same with basic rules of etiquette.u

(Photos courtesy of Bertrands at Mr. A’s)

San Diego Uptown News | September 2–15, 2011



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