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California restaurant bans patrons under 18 from dining without parents due to bad behavior

Red Rooster Burgers and Grill owner Christina Azbill said that the new policy was driven by destructive, disruptive behavior.
/ Source: TODAY

A family-owned restaurant in California has banned kids who visit the establishment without an adult, citing bad behavior from teens that has caused damage, upset staff and driven away other customers.

Red Rooster Burgers and Grill, which opened in Garden Valley, CA in July 2019, posted about the new rules on Sept. 24. In the Facebook post announcing the new policy, the owners outlined the "overall disrespect for the restaurant" shown by some "kiddos," including specific incidents like teens smoking e-cigarettes indoors, throwing fries at employees, stealing beverages and destroying or damaging property.

"For the entire 2 years we have owned the restaurant we have been hit with this type of behavior," said Christina Azbill, who operates the restaurant with her daughter Ashley, via email. "On numerous accounts we took opportunities to speak with the kids to let them know we didn't approve and it was inappropriate. We'd have maybe a few days without any instances and then it would resume back to rude acts and behaviors."

Azbill said that the establishment is right across the street from a school, which she believes leads to some of the behavior. Azbill noted that the behavior is worse "when school is in session" and has been perpetuated by multiple groups of kids, not just one group.

"We can never assume the same kids are to blame when other kids, who may not normally act this way, are encouraged to from (other) kids who have always acted this way," Azbill said.

Azbill said that she and her staff attempted to take other steps before deciding to ban unaccompanied children and teens.

"We have spoken to them numerous times. We have moved the tables to a more visible area in the dining area so to keep an eye on them. This limits the area in which we can seat dining customers," Azbill said. "We have locked the bathroom door and handed out the key to those in need, which is inconvenient for our other customers. We have installed a mirror that reflects the dining area from the cooking area. In the past we have kicked out those we physically saw conducting destruction or disruption."

Azbill added that it has been "disheartening" for her staff to deal with this behavior, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, which walloped the restaurant industry.

"Running a restaurant through COVID was hard enough and we pride ourselves in our "never give up" mentality," Azbill said. "This in turn has given the entire crew even more pride in our restaurant in that we survived and are doing well."

Azbill said that response on the new policy has been split: While many people have had "favorable" reactions, others have accused her of racism or discrimination towards teenagers. A slew of negative reviews online accusing the establishment of being "ageist, racist and discriminating" based on the new policy have impacted the restaurant's rating online.

"We have had remarks on Facebook that this was racially motivated. Of course it wasn't," Azbill said. "The decision was based on the destruction of our business solely. Some customers have reached out to let us know they will return to the restaurant now that the kids won't be here to ruin their dining experience. The very next day after our new policy we had a wonderful lunch (shift) with people I have not seen in a long time."

Azbill said that she and her staff still welcome children and teenagers who are accompanied by their parents or other adults.

"Minor children do not have the right to invade a business and take it over to eliminate their boredom, and parents don't have the right to expect us to watch their minor children while we are in the midst of running a restaurant," Azbill said. "I have had some parents contact me asking how we could work with their child so they could get something to eat before their sports game or practice. We encourage them to do so and welcome them in with their parents' consent."

Since enacting the new policy, Azbill said that the establishment has been peaceful, and she and her staff have been able to focus more on providing a great experience for diners.

"It's been quiet and less work as far as cleaning up after them. Sometimes it would take someone between half an hour and more to clean up the mess they left on the floor, tables, walls, and ceilings, also in the bathroom. Having to check daily every single condiment container for foreign objects also is a loss of product when we have to throw them all away," Azbill said. "Customers have reached out with their support that they no longer have to deal with this as well and appreciate that we are taking a stand against the bad behaviors."