Way back in Archduke Franz-Michael Bloomberg's first term as NYC mayor, he banned smoking in all bars and restaurants in New York City. I was, and still am, totally outraged even these many years later when smoking has been banned almost everywhere else, too. I think smoking has even been banned in the southern United States, Ireland, England, and most of Europe, right?
I wasn't even a smoker when the ban went into effect in NYC. I had just quit, so the ban was good for me personally because I could go out for drinks with friends and not be tempted by smokers happily puffing all around me. But I still thought it was over-reaching and wrong.
Smokers are justifiably banned from smoking in most public places (offices, hospitals, churches, airplanes, buses, subways, trains, schools, dorms, prisons, libraries, hotels, restaurants, parks, beaches, a lot of sidewalks, a lot of apartments buildings, theaters, and in cars in which children are riding) so shouldn't there be one single place where a smoker can light up? And I totally get that workers who are not smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke, and yes, that sucks. But I always thought there could be some sort of compromise worked out---like maybe a bar could choose to be a smoking or non-smoking bar, and then workers could choose where to work.
Anyway, it's done; the ban will never be lifted. But one of the unintended consequences of the ban has turned out to be a baby boom in bars. Since there's no smoke, parents take their babies with them.
My friends the Gallagher sisters, Annie and Bernadette, were out in Park Slope, Brooklyn last weekend. Park Slope is close to Manhattan, and the apartments are bigger and just ever-so-slightly more affordable than Manhattan. It's not quite moving to the suburbs, so a lot of new parents move there. And then they go out and meet their friends who also have babies out at bars. Annie said there were so many babies in the bar that day that she bought 4 beers and the bartender threw in a baby for free.
This has been happening all over NYC for a while now. The first time I walked into a bar and saw baby strollers, I was shocked. I met Bernadette that afternoon, and she put it quite succinctly: "If your baby is going to buy me a drink, O.K. Otherwise, leave him at home." And I have to say I tended to agree with Bernadette then.
Now that I'm a mom, I'm not sure how I feel anymore. On the one hand, why not take your baby with you to meet friends? If you go to a restaurant and sit at a table while having a cocktail with friends, then is it really any different if you sit at the bar instead of a table and have your drink? Then again, it's a bar. Fights have been known to break out. Drunks have been known to fall off bar stools, not that I have any personal experience of that happening, but thank goodness I was wearing underwear that night is all I'm going to say on that subject. Should babies really be exposed to this sort of stuff?
I'm talking about afternoons here, by the way. I haven't heard of anyone taking a baby out at night to a bar or club. Now granted, the last time I was in a club, people were doing The Vogue, and not in an ironic or fun-retro kind of way, either, so I really have no idea what goes on in clubs anymore.
I can't imagine that the mayor called a strategy session and said, "How can we make bars more baby friendly?" and yet, that's what he did. I think it's hilarious, to be honest. Mayor Mike has also been trying to ban the sale of large sugary drinks. I do agree with him on one thing: sugar is almost as dangerous to one's health as tobacco. But banning large sodas? Never going to work. At least not in the way he intends. Maybe this will just lead to babies drinking beer in bars when they are out with their parents instead of soda?
So far, I have not taken the little guy* out to a bar. In fact, I haven't been out with friends at a bar since he came along, a situation that I intend to remedy soon. I have met friends for lunch and brunch at cafes and restaurants, sat at a table, and even had a glass of wine I think, with him along in his stroller.
I'm still not sure how I feel about putting him in his stroller and heading out the a bar. Thoughts? Comments?
*By "little guy" I mean my son, not the mayor.
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