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Video: Restaurant says 'no thanks' to screaming babies

TODAY contributor
updated 9/9/2010 9:47:33 AM ET 2010-09-09T13:47:33

On an airplane, in a movie theater or in a restaurant, the shrill sound of a childish voice raised in distress can resemble nails across a blackboard — especially when it’s not your child. Now one North Carolina eatery has drawn a line in the sand by posting signs prohibiting children’s uproar.

“Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated!” say placards posted at the Olde Salty restaurant in Carolina Beach. N.C. And while the signs may seem to be telling some parents their patronage is unwelcome, restaurant owner Brenda Armes said it’s actually been a business boon.

Image: restaurant sign
The Olde Salty restaurant in North Carolina has stirred passions with this message to patrons who are parents.

“It has been a good thing for us,” Armes told NBC affiliate WECT. “It has brought in more customers than it has ever kept away.”

Indeed, a first-time diner at the Olde Salty told WECT he embraced the signage. “It’s not very enjoyable when you hear a bunch of kids screaming,” Gary Gibson said. “It’s nice to see a sign like that up.”

Against the law?
But not all agree: In fact, one local woman told the station she believes the sign is downright illegal. Kelly Chambliss, the mother of an autistic child, accused Armes of discriminating against special-needs children.

“I think she needs to meet some of these kids, and I think she needs to see that they are awesome,” Chambliss told WECT. “Please don’t shut them out because they don’t fit in the perfect box everyone wants them in.”

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Armes said she told Chambliss: “Autism is not a word on that sign, ma’am.” And her restaurant doesn’t kick diners with loud children to the curb, she added. Instead, they are asked to take the offending child outside until they pipe down.

Still, Chambliss, who said she believes the sign violates the American with Disabilities Act, contends the restaurant’s owner basically said her autistic child was not welcome there.

“She looked at me and said, ‘I cannot believe you even take him in public. You must be the only one,’ ” Chambliss told WECT.

Online controversy
Yet within days of WECT’s highlighting the Olde Salty signage, dozens of messages sprouted up on the Web debating the issue. A Dubois, Pa., woman said she, too, has an autistic child, but wouldn’t expect diners to tolerate the occasional volume.

“I hate hearing her shrieking, so there’s no way I’m going to expect someone else to put up with it; I don’t really see a problem here,” the poster wrote. “If you can’t keep yourself or your kid under control, then it’s time to go back to the zoo.”

A Bowling Green, Ky., woman described the pain childless couples face when around loud children. “Our threshold for yelling, running around, etc., is very low. If I wanted to be around crazy kids, I’d eat at Chuck E. Cheese.”

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But an Annapolis, Md., dad suggested the signs might not go far enough — they could include adults, too. The man said that when his child began chattering loudly at a local restaurant recently, he asked his son to use his “inside voice.”

“[But] my wife said that in retrospect, he wasn’t all that loud — not compared to the person in the bar area in the next room who was laughing like a hyena,” the Maryland dad added. “THAT turned heads. Our son, not so much.”

As for Olde Salty owner Armes, she told WECT she’s only trying to create an atmosphere conducive to a great dining experience. “We want to attract the type of people that come in knowing they aren’t going to have to sit behind a table with a bunch of screaming children,” she said.

Besides, Armes may actually have a gentle touch compared to other restaurants. At the popular Pensacola Beach, Fla., restaurant Peg Leg Pete’s Seafood, a more forbidding (albeit misspelled) sign is posted outside:

“Unruley children will be cooked and eaten.”

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Vote: Should restaurants have the right to ban 'screaming children'?

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