Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mothers Up in Arms over Cafe Ban on Under-Fives

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mothers Up in Arms over Cafe Ban on Under-Fives

Article excerpt

Byline: Ben Morgan and Jamie Bullen

Storm in a coffee cup: workers at the Organic Kitchen in Buckhurst Hill, where under-fives are banned. Right, Ellie Hart-Spratt and daughter AN ORGANIC cafe has caused a stir in a leafy London suburb by banning children under five.

In the babyccino corner are the local mothers who say they simply want to go for a cup of coffee with their babies or toddlers after taking older children to school nearby.

In the quinoa corner is the frustrated cafe owner, who claims parents with "prams the size of Essex" who let their children "run riot" are ruining the experience for other customers.

Hilary Penning, who runs the Organic Kitchen in Buckhurst Hill, has a twoyear-old son and is unrepentant about her decision, which she announced by posting a sign on the door.

She said: "There's been far too many instances where mums come in with newborn babies and allow the children to cry and cry. Some parents have come in for up to two hours with their children crying.

"It's been a hard decision but I think I made the right choice. I cannot allow people to come in expecting to have a great eating experience but have to leave because their lunch or breakfast has been ruined by inconsiderate parents allowing their children to run riot, which has happened quite a bit."

Ms Penning said she welcomed parents and children when she opened in September, buying baby changing equipment and two high chairs, but brought in the new policy because of the behaviour of a "small minority".

"The challenge is we are so small," she said. "When you get mums turning up on the doorstep with prams the size of Essex it only takes one or two to have an effect. I hate health and safety but staff are saying they cannot get through the tables carrying hot meals. For me, it was a disaster waiting to happen."

She added: "The main target audience is not young parents or anyone with a toddler or baby. The decor is fantastic, the ambience feels like somewhere like Los Angeles or people give us feedback saying it's like New York."

There is some leeway for parents with children a few months short of their fifth birthday. …

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