Children in Pubs: Tangents

The debate about children in pubs (like sparklers, BrewDog, finings, &c.) only seems to get gristlier the more it’s chewed and so we’re staying out of it. Having said that…

When we thought aloud on Twitter last night suggesting there ought to be a guide to child-friendly pubs, we were reacting specifically to this Tweet…

We’ve seen variants on this question a good few times over the years from people on holiday in other countries, or other parts of this country. We’re not qualified to write a guide ourselves — we don’t have kids and, thinking about it, most of our favourite pubs aren’t terribly family friendly — but our general observation would be that small and/or historic pubs in city centres are a dead loss; chains tend to be more child-friendly; and pubs in the country or suburbs are usually a good bet. So, in summary, if you’ve got kids, get on a bus, train or tram and ride a few stops.

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There is also this bit of historical info which we offer with perhaps a touch of mischief in mind: the idea that children shouldn’t be allowed in pubs only really arose at the end of the 19th century and was championed by… temperance campaigners. The author G.K. Chesterton wrote a series of snarky anti-temperance columns for the Illustrated London News in the Edwardian era; here’s a bit from 23 April 1910:

Take, for the sake of argument, the clause recently introduced by the Lords into the Children’s Act, by which no child is allowed into any inn or hostelry. I will not stop to argue about this; it is enough to say it was founded on the great primary temperance principle that everything about public-houses should be settled by the people who have never been inside them. It thus involved the absurd notion… that a public-house is a peculiarly secret sort of private house where awful things occur of which no whisper can reach the street. These people talk about a tavern as if it were some sort of sacred enclosure within which devils were worshipped… It never seems to occur to them that a public-house is very like a public street, because it is public. If an inn-parlour is quiet and kindly, it is because the village outside is quiet and kindly. If a public bar is squalid and noisy, it is because the street outside is squalid and noisy…

He goes on to conclude that if we stop children going into pubs, it’ll be bookshops next, then butchers’ shops, then the street, until we have them safely locked up in the coal cellar. So, if you fear creeping prohibition, it is your moral duty to lobby for more kids in pubs.

PS. Tandleman — ‘gawd bless ‘im’? — has a post prompted by the same Twitter discussion.

8 thoughts on “Children in Pubs: Tangents”

  1. Another top tip is – if in doubt – to steer away from places that look like ‘pubs’ in favour of those that look like ‘bars’. If an area’s got enough ‘craft keg’ drinkers to support a ‘bar’, the chances that some of those people have got kids – and don’t see why they should be stuck at home – are pretty high. It’s an age profile thing. (Sorry about the scare quotes; I don’t think any of those things has a hard-and-fast definition, but we all kind of know what I’m talking about.)

  2. That bit of temperance history is extremely enlightening, and probably explains the widespread ban on children in licenced premises in much of the US.

  3. Interesting that the law was set up to protect children from pub customers but now it’s seems that people think it’s there to protect pub customers from children.

  4. I’m amazed this is still an issue having done my Camra family pubs guide in 2004, my boy was 2 months old when we let him sleep beneath the table as we had a pint in the Crown at Exford. You’re right about the unsuitability of town centre historical pubs for kids, when I did the book I really struggled to award a London pub with best child-friendly place, eventually gave it to the White Horse in Parsons Green, which always seemed to combine kids and craft (feel much better after that alliteration). Chesterton might have been a rum old cove but he was sure of the pub’s place in our society (the Father Brown tales aren’t bad either).

  5. In Chesterton’s day, of course, children were expected to be seen but not heard. I do wonder about the circumstances under which Edwardian parents were taking children into pubs anyway.

  6. Wetherspoons are generally a safe bet, and in some cases do a really good job of welcoming families without alienating everyone else.

    I agree on craft “bars” – anywhere that looks like it does the whole Sunday roast/papers/craft beer thing is going to need to welcome the odd buggy or six to bring in the right demographic.

    My local micropub was very welcoming – “She’s very welcome, providing she is quiet. If she’s not, perhaps you can sit outside” – which seemed entirely fair.

  7. I don’t have children but if I did, I think I’d phone to check whether children were permitted rather than turn up and risk both disappointment and a wasted journey.

  8. I take my kids to lots of pubs.
    I try to find ones that have a beer garden preferably with some kind of play equipment.
    This is easier to find in villages and countryside than the city.
    If my kids are inside the pub then theres an expectation that they behave and dont race about. If they cant behave we leave. Pubs mneed to welcome families too many are closing down and claiming that they cant get customers through the door. Whereas families are saying they cant find places to go

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