Whining and dining? Melbourne bar bans kids

"Maybe those at the Raccoon Club would do better to make like government bureaucrats and see children as Future Earning ...
"Maybe those at the Raccoon Club would do better to make like government bureaucrats and see children as Future Earning Modules" ... Larissa Dubecki 

Make no mistake, children are horrible. They're noisy, they smell and have no table manners. Appalling tippers, too.

All of which makes Robert Price and Helen Del Din newly minted heroes of the anti-child movement. In the latest instalment of the children-versus-world saga beginning somewhere around the dawn of time, the owners of Preston's Raccoon Club have banned anyone under 18 years of age, full stop, no exceptions.

They are brave souls, taking on a pro-baby movement wondering what to do with itself now David Koch has been brought to heel over his comments that breastfeeding is OK, so long as it doesn't involve breasts.The kid-discrimination story sticks to a nicely worn template. New parents clinging to the quaint belief their lives haven't been ruined forever are knocked back from licensed premises; understandably horrified their progeny will be denied basic human rights, such as access to the craft beer movement, they cry foul.

Before this fizzles out the usual cliches will be uttered. The no-baby side will fire back with the idea of 'yummy mummies' who sit around drinking coffees with friends all day. But you see a yummy mummy, I see a woman struggling to resist the lure of the dark side with its trackies, ugg boots and poor personal grooming. I see a woman bravely trying to retain a semblance of her former carefree, child-free life via a skim-milk caffe latte. Give her a break, please.

While I've got the conch, let me tell you a little story about the first time I ventured out of the house, post-baby No. 1.

Demented from lack of sleep, agoraphobic after too long spent alone indoors, I struggled up the hill with my three-wheeler pram (I honestly don't care if you have a problem with that) to my pre-baby favourite cafe, only to have the hipster staff stare blankly while I struggled with the door. I retreated, wheeled home, and wept.

Moral of the story? They missed out on the estimated $50,000 I've spent on coffee in the intervening four years.

So, yes, let economics be the crude decider. Times are tough in the industry and our Preston duo may be shooting themselves in the foot by banning potential customers.

Other places are welcoming the junior set as a revenue stream. George Calombaris' Mama Baba has a baby food menu - pea and broccoli, or, if young sir prefers, sweet potato or peach and pear. Now that's taking kid-friendliness to the next level. And international celeb chef Luke Mangan recently released a line of infant food (and Luke, the baby likes the chicken paella, but you'd better go back to the drawing board with the lamb hotpot).


Maybe those at the Raccoon Club would do better to make like government bureaucrats and see children as Future Earning Modules. In a mere 18 years their benevolence will be repaid when the newly minted Young Adults can legally blow their pocket money/Austudy/McDonald's earnings on cider and pale ale.

Before we get sucked into a primary-coloured vortex I exhort you to remember we're all in this human race business together. It's possible to be a parent and have sympathy for the Raccoon Club and its lonely stance. Too many parents forget the social contract. They woefully misjudge time and place - a beer garden before 6pm, probably yes; a bar after 8pm, definitely not. Of course waiters should not be treated like unpaid babysitters. Noisy, unsupervised kids should be given espresso.

I wouldn't take my infant to a "proper" restaurant, but I've seen it often enough. It's always a slightly tense scene as everyone in the room waits for the baby bomb to detonate. The childless patrons probably sneer at the sad parental two-step where one sits at the table shovelling their food, while the other does that funny rocking dance with infant in arms. Confronted with such a scene do you think, "I must summon management"? No - better to think, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Larissa Dubecki is chief restaurant critic for The Age and the mother of two occasionally well-behaved children.