The sad thing is that in many circles it is not socially acceptable to drink and hang out with your children. I’ve been harboring my dirty little secret for about three years — coincidentally, the same amount of time that I have been a parent. My husband and I have always taken our babies and later toddlers to kid-friendly bar environments.
Surprisingly, we’re not the only ones doing this. In my area, there are a number of hipster-inspired beer gardens popping up with huge playgrounds in the middle. What does it mean? Are these alcohol-serving establishments actually encouraging us to bring kids to a place where we drink?
The answer is yes. In a recent piece in The New York Times, Jennifer Miller explores the concept of play dates at the beer garden. She says, “Across the country, German beer gardens are booming, and as they proliferate in both gentrifying neighborhoods and city parks, they’ve become a go-to destination for family outings, play dates and toddler birthdays. On weekend afternoons, many transform into Gymboree-like spaces with multiple brews on tap.”
This is the precise experience that I have had with kid-friendly beer gardens since I live in a German-influenced part of south Texas. Parents who want to spend a Sunday afternoon enjoying a pint or two might as well bring their kids along. There’s no reason to hire a babysitter when you can all go together and spend that money on beer.
Beer gardens are not a weird or inappropriate place to take children. Quite the contrary — most beer gardens are set up to welcome families with toddlers and kids to expand their customer base. But there is a catch. Some child-free Yelpers have complained about “rugrats” overtaking their favorite beer spots.
So, there are a few ground rules. If you choose to meet a friend for a play date at a drinking establishment, it’s still on you to make sure your kid behaves and doesn’t bother other patrons. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect to see kids at one of these beer gardens with a playground in the daytime. But parents still have to watch their kids and monitor the playground for any spills or fights.
If we can all band together and agree to play nice at the beer garden, then maybe they’ll keep inviting parents and kids back. Pay attention, don’t let your kid act like a jerk and enjoy your beer. That’s the best play date I can imagine.