In a scene that will be repeated by parents across the country this summer, we glanced back at our daughter snoozing in her car seat, at the clock on the dashboard and the roadmap, and began thinking about where and when we would stop for lunch.
Kids and beer together, in a setting that treats both well, is a recent phenomenon in the United States.
We were headed north on Interstate 25, and Sierra obviously was going to sleep right through Pueblo. Next stop, Colorado Springs. We knew just the spot―Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza & Brewery.
Il Vicino makes what Sierra considers a perfect kid’s meal―a child-sized version of Pizza Margherita with tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. It costs $2.50, slightly more expensive than a McDonald’s Happy Meal once you pay for lemonade―but they give her pizza dough to play with while the pizza bakes⎯and mom and dad can order fresh beer.
Such a pleasant pit stop would have been unlikely just a few years ago. Kids and beer together, in a setting that treats both well, is a recent phenomenon in the United States. Only in places that replicated the Old World, such as the German beer gardens of the late 1800s, did this happen.
Of course, there are those who will argue it still shouldn’t, and would be happy handing out the literature the Anti-Saloon League used 100 years ago in lobbying for the passage of Prohibition. One of the best-selling books for the 19th century, Ten Nights in a Barroom, had a picture of a little girl on the cover, grasping her father’s arm and crying, “Father, come home!” In one of the book’s best-known scenes, a little girl is trying to retrieve her drunken father from a saloon when she is knocked unconscious by a flying beer glass.
We doubt that many children were actually felled by flying glass in those saloons, but clearly these weren’t family places. The taverns and bars that emerged after Prohibition in the 1930s weren’t as rough and tumble, but many still didn’t tolerate women, let alone children.
Don Younger of the well-known Horse Brass Pub in Portland, OR, likes to point out that, as recently as the 1960s, state law prohibited bars from having windows that were less than 6 feet above the ground. That didn’t exactly encourage civility. “We had nothing else to do but get drunk and say [expletive deleted] a lot. It was crazy. I don’t know how we survived it,” Younger said.
Even today, you had best check the house rules in Oregon pubs before assuming that children are permitted. They may be banned, by law, from all or part of a place in the evening. No matter where you are, places tend to be kid friendlier before things get too late or too busy.
The law can be just as confusing in Washington. Basically, Washington state law does not permit children to be present where beer is served. That means children―even babes in arms, we found out the hard way―cannot venture into a place that has a pub-only license. Many brewpubs have both pub and liquor licenses and erect a wall beyond which those under 21 should not venture.
Then there is the Elysian Brewery in Seattle. It features “taps from the sky” that hang down from the ceiling rather than sitting on the bar. Since the beer taps do not actually touch the bar, it qualifies as a “lunch counter,” and children may sit there.