It was our first time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was a lovely Saturday in May, a little more than three years ago. The weather was in the 70s, the breezes were light, the perfect kind of day to spend an afternoon sipping really good beer, munching salty bar food and catching up with my besties.
Jade and I were visiting friends from my high school and college, who not only know good eats, but are also tapped into where all the cool kids hang out. It was decided we should check out Radegast Hall and Biergarten, which turned out to be a genius choice. We could reconnect with our German-influenced Wisconsin roots and take in the hipster culture flourishing in Brooklyn, while enjoying NYC’s artesian approach to the Dairy State’s four major food groups: cheese, bread (pretzels, in this case) sausage and beer.
The place was packed. Although it had an industrial feel, it was quite open and airy. In the beer garden area, the afternoon sun showed through the bank of structure-long skylights that formed the vaulted ceiling. After a brief wait, we managed to scrounge up a couple bench seats at one of the large picnic tables. We ordered a round of pitchers, their legendary pretzels and a meat and cheese plate. We were having a great time and then I paused.
Curious, beyond the chunky nerd glasses, handle bar mustaches, female arm-sleeve tattoos and an explosion of plaid not seen since Kurt Cobain was avant-garde, was the number of young children among us. They seemed to be everywhere – kids in strollers, kids climbing around the picnic-style tables, kids running between our legs. In one corner of this relatively large establishment was a virtual stroller parking lot, manned by young hip parents who saw nothing wrong with perching a baby on their lap and using a large stein of fine German beer as a counterbalance.
I posed questions to myself, and then out-loud to my friends is bringing babies to bars appropriate? Essentially, what type of person wheels a stroller into a place where people are drunk and raucous? The answer was patently simple – irresponsible parents. I swore up and down I would never bring my child to a bar.
And then, a couple weeks shy of three years later, I did just that.
Now, I will preface that I brought Rocco to the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, which was much more like an expansive sit-down restaurant and outdoor green space with a brewery attached. They give brewery tours and there is even a brewery gift-shop. The restaurant, outdoor lounge area and brewery gift-shop were packed, the atmosphere was bustling but all parties appeared to be completely in control. There was no raucous behavior like at the Radegast, I know, because we were the unruly ones. And the overall feel was much more of a restaurant than just a bar. Besides their beers, Stone is also known for its outstanding menu.
To be fair, Radegast is not some college bar, the sort one would expect to host wet t-shirt contests during Spring Break, or a meathead sports bar where beer-bellied guys in jerseys yell at enormous televisions. It is far more laid back than those examples, but is nonetheless alcohol focused, which, in my book, means adults only. Bad things happen when people drink and I wouldn’t want to put my kid in harm’s way, or prematurely introduce him to the culture of alcohol, for that matter.
Although I did question my parenting when deciding if it was appropriate to bring my young son to a brewery, my desire to spend time with a good friend who was in town for the day and invited us on the tour outweighed the indiscretion of breaking my own rule about the inappropriateness of bringing a baby to a bar.
My hard and fast rule before I had kids was that it was never appropriate to have my baby in a bar. However, this situation left me with nagging questions about appropriateness. When would it be appropriate to bring a baby to a bar? How many shades of gray should we allow ourselves as parents? I know I don’t have all the answers and my previous assumptions of my parenting choices are continually questioned as I come upon unexpected circumstances. Lucky for me, I have another 17 plus years to figure it out.