In this age of social hypochondria, bringing a kid into a bar can get you a few strange looks. Though the neighborhood pub has served in many cultures as a family gathering place, the American mentality is getting progressively regressive on the issue.
Just looking at adults enjoying a beer might doom young Johnny or Annie to a lifetime of sleeping under bridges. Though most parents are more realistic, thats the way it seems to some parents and bar patrons (who no doubt have their kids at home in front of the boob tube, or out vandalizing state property).
But opponents of babes in bars have a point. Theres no doubt that any parent must be on guard against the Beverage-Industrial Complex that, among other things, invented the wine cooler, those bubble-gum flavored soft drinks with just enough cough syrup and sugar to get you somewhat high (if you drink about 27 of them) and very sick.
(Weve probably all seen at least one pre-pubescent teen, curled up on a sidewalk, puking a bright pink substance into a flower box. Thats PTWCS: post-traumatic wine-cooler syndrome.)
These drinks were obviously marketed toward young teens with the idea of developing not only dependence, but brand loyalty and liver share as well.
So given that the booze biz would probably start marketing gin and tonics in little plastic bottles with nipples, if they could, theres good reason to be wary of the Diaper-Bar concept. Just imagine the kinds of things that liquor hucksters might to do make their product more family friendly: My First 40 oz., Pabst Blue Fuzzy Toy, Margaritaland, Absolut Barney.
Through this fermenting cauldron of moral crises, parents walk a fine line between living life and protecting their kids from fast living.
But lets face it, there may come a time when you need to meet some friends, or colleagues, who all want to go downtown for a beer after work. The only problem is, right after the day job ends, youve got to pick up the two-year-old at day care.
Whaddya do? Do you decline? Do you give up friends because now youre a parent? Do you find a sitter every time you want to spend time with the guys, or the gals? Or do you offer an alternative: a small, family-friendly bar that serves food or snacks and wont give you a hassle if youve got a toddler in tow?
With that crisis in mind, I decided to poll a few friends who have young children to see which bars they think are most friendly to patrons with younguns. The biggest issues, not surprisingly, are not the booze, but the relative smokiness of the joint, the decibel level of the jukebox or live music, and the general ambience.
Before listing the results of my poll, I want to give a few tips to people who want to keep the kid-friendly tone coming: 1) tip generously, 2) even though you will tip generously, take a second or two to bend down and at least pick up the larger chunks of guacamole that are smeared onto the baby chair, and 3) dont change your kids diaper on the bar.
With that in mind, cheers!
Though hardly a bar, Poor Richard's is a great place to go if you want a brewski, and a bite to eat for you when you're with the little one. This completely smoke-free environment is full of wholesome, colorful good cheer, and the backroom has a little play room full of toys, books and a little climbing area. You can take sips of Mass Transit Pale Ale, in between trips to the play area to keep the tyke from peeling the papier mch bark off the make-believe rainforest tree constructed next to the playhouse. There are also lots of colorful things to look at -- butterflies, birds and monkeys -- hanging from the ceiling.
324 1/2 N. Tejon St. 632-7721
Jack Quinns Irish Ale House and Pub
Downtown's Jack Quinn's probably got the most votes in my informal poll, probably because it also offers live music in a family friendly environment. JQ's seems to follow the traditional Irish idea that the pub is not some place where society sequesters its losers. Rather, the pub (or at least some pubs) is a place where friends and family get together -- to have a shepherd's pie, a pint, sing some songs and hear a few reels. Though there's some ambient smoke, there's enough of a non-smoking area near the music stage that kids can enjoy the music and the food without developing asthma.
21 S. Tejon. 385-0766
Jose's is another funhouse for adults that offers a few nooks and crannies where families can escape the smoke screen, get a meal and even a good earful of some local rock and roll. Jose's back patio is also close enough to the music that Mom and Dad could swing young baby around to the beat, while not having to place delicate eardrums in front of blasting 12-inch subwoofers. And if you're hungry, on Sundays, with every adult entre, a kid's entre is free.
222 N. Tejon. 636-2311
The Phantom is another good place for kids, according to my sources. Like Quinn's, PC has a large open interior downstairs (the only place kids are allowed) and the non-smoking area is tolerable though you might want to avoid it on a Saturday night much after dinnertime. Best of all, PC has a very complete kids menu with healthy portions, and the reportedly kid-friendly waitstaff has been known to treat particularly cute kids to ice cream (if the parents are not too bratty).
2 E. Pikes Peak Ave. 635-2800