Dirty nappies on tables and 'feral' kids force cafe to close playroom

John and Claudette Osterberg at their cafe, Black Mocha, at Turramurra.
John and Claudette Osterberg at their cafe, Black Mocha, at Turramurra. Photo: Peter Rae

A north shore cafe has closed its popular playroom after parents and their children continued to "display deplorable manners", including leaving dirty nappies on dining tables, the owners say.

John and Claudette Osterberg, owners of Black Mocha in Turramurra, broke the news to customers via a Facebook post on Tuesday that outlined some of the behaviour they say forced the playroom's closure.

"Black Mocha is not a crèche, a play centre, your home, or an open park; it is a café. Just because the café provides toilets, a change table, playroom & a kids menu it, does not make it a kid's cafe," they wrote in the post.

Facebook screen capture from Black Mocha cafe in Turramurra. The cafe has closed it children's playroom due to ...
Facebook screen capture from Black Mocha cafe in Turramurra. The cafe has closed it children's playroom due to disgusting behaviour. Photo: Supplied

The offending behaviour included:

  • children ripping books, breaking toys and drawing on walls
  • kids grinding food into the carpet, books, walls and toys
  • kids "running and screeching unsupervised" around the cafe, jumping on the furniture "just for fun and often encouraged by their parents"
  • children washing their hands in other patrons' water glasses and taking food from other patrons' plates
  • parents changing nappies on lounges, table tops and the playroom floor, and then placing dirty nappies on top of dining tables.

"In the end it became a choice between the playroom or the business," Mr Osterberg told Fairfax Media.

"Two screaming children can actually empty that cafe in the space of 15 minutes. And we can't do that to our other loyal customers. It was seriously hurting our business."

The cafe had already posted a message to its Facebook page in February, saying parents and children who displayed "deplorable manners" were no longer welcome. The February post warned that the cafe would close its play area "should parents not understand the importance of social etiquette".

Mr Osterberg said the "heartbreaking" decision was made for the sake of their other patrons.

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"We want everybody to have a good time, unfortunately [the playroom] was attracting a small number of people who just turned around to us and said, 'This is a kids cafe'. And we said, 'No, it's not. It's a family cafe'."

Indignant parents, angry at being asked to try to calm their children, would lash out at cafe staff, Mr Osterberg said.

"Even if our staff goes up to the parents, [and asks] nicely, 'Can you please ask your child to use an inside voice?', they would turn on us often, start yelling and screaming at our staff, abusing them and saying, 'You're obviously not a parent. You don't know what you're talking about'."

The husband-wife team are veterans of hospitality, having worked in the industry for 25 years. Black Mocha, opened two years ago, is the first cafe business they've built from scratch.

The cafe's Facebook post announcing the decision to close the playroom received dozens of comments and replies. Most expressed sympathy for the owners, thanking them for having provided the playroom and pledging to continue visiting Black Mocha even without its playroom.

A handful of negative comments criticised the cafe for having unreasonably high expectations of how children should behave.

Mr Osterberg said the decision had been met with "an overwhelming amount of support" and parents and their children were still welcome at the cafe "as long as they can respect normal social norms".