Should Kids Be Banned from Bars?

South Street bar Tattooed Mom allows children of any age to hang out until 7 p.m., accompanied by a responsible adult, of course.

South Street bar Tattooed Mom allows children of any age to hang out until 7 p.m., accompanied by a responsible adult, of course.

It’s Thursday night. You’ve had a rough day at work. And all you really want to do is belly up to your favorite bar and have a few beers and talk about grownup things with your friends, as people are wont to do in drinking establishments. But when you get there, you are horrified to find a group of young kids sitting at the bar.

This is a scenario we’ve seen before and one we were reminded of the other day thanks to a heated discussion on the Facebook group South Silly, dedicated to the goings-on in the South Philadelphia neighborhood.

One member of the group posted the following status on Monday afternoon: “Keep your fucking children out of bars.”

Well then.

The man who posted the profane edict told Foobooz that when he showed up at the bar/restaurant (he didn’t want to name it), expecting to sit at the bar, he found a bunch of children occupying the space.

“There was a table at this restaurant open, and the bar was filled with five kids and their parents taking pictures of them drinking ‘mocktails,'” he remembers. “It felt like a playground, and there was no room for just me and my friend. If they sat or moved to the table, which fit them, then seven seats would be available. It was 7 p.m. and I just don’t think it was cool.”

A series of spirited responses followed his his original post, with some people supporting his sentiment and others playing the Don’t tell me how to raise my kids card. There was also armchair legal analysis from folks saying things like it’s not even legal for a kid to sit at a bar or be in a bar at all.

Well, just what is the law in Pennsylvania? Surprisingly, the usually draconian Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is pretty lax when it comes to tots in watering holes. There are various sections, but basically it boils down to this: A child of any age can go to the corner bar and sit wherever they damn well please — yes, that includes at the bar — provided that a parent or guardian is “on the premises.” One exception to this rule involves smoking bars, where no one under 18 is allowed, whether accompanied by Daddy or not.

When it comes to restaurants with bars, a minor doesn’t need a parent or guardian at all to go inside, assuming that the establishment is more of a restaurant than a bar. The PLCB has a formula it uses to determine this. So, no, the bar down the street with the sketchy hot dog crockpot probably doesn’t make the cut.

Laws pertaining to minors in licensed drinking establishments vary throughout the country, and each state is free to set its own rules. In Washington State, for instance, kids aren’t allowed in food-free bars at all, and they’re not permitted in restaurants that serve liquor unless there’s a portion of the public area of the restaurant that is off-limits to kids and posted as such. Like Pennsylvania, New York requires a parent or guardian for minors, but only if you’re 15 or under. There are as many variations on these laws as there are states in the union.

Of course some bars do set their own rules. Just because the state says that kids can hang out in your neighborhood dive doesn’t mean that the bartender is going to let the brat from down the street sit there and play MegaTouch and drink Pepsi all day. Go ahead, Johnny’s Mom, call the ACLU.

Here in Philadelphia, Queen Village bar L’Etage, which serves plenty of food, has a hard-and-fast rule that no one under 21 gets through the door, no matter what. Just around the corner at dive bar Tattooed Mom, parents are welcome to bring their kids until 7 p.m.

“It’s the same rule that we have for dogs,” says Sean, a bartender at Tattooed Mom. “I’ve been here 14 years, and kids have always been allowed in here until 7. We want this to be a place for everybody. After 7, though, gotta get into that adult party mode.”

We here at Foobooz would like to know what you think. With the exception of the most child-hating among us, we can all probably agree that a well-behaved kid chowing down with her parents at a table at the Royal Tavern or in a booth at El Vez doesn’t pose much of a threat. But when it comes to the corner bar or kids actually sitting at the bar in any establishment, well, we can see that side of the argument.