That Age Barrier Redux

The great Gatsby's debate continues

But I'm more astonished by Henry Chau's comment that "restaurants have the right to select the type of customer they want for their establishment (including no one under age 21). To equate the no-children policy with discrimination against Jews or blacks is ... way out of line and an insult to these groups." I must reiterate. Gatsby's edict is not just a no-children policy, because it includes that segment of potential consumers that has achieved adult status in every way but one: the right to drink alcohol. (And even eighteen-year-olds can consume alcoholic beverages if they are in the armed services.)

Imply, insinuate, even insult us, but no restaurant ever should have the right to arbitrarily choose customers on the basis of race, religion, and, yes, age.

Fortunately the outcry against my column hasn't been restricted to adult diners, and support hasn't been limited to frustrated parents. The age group in our community that should truly be concerned has begun to weigh in as well, like eighteen-year-old Edwin Stirman, who was stopped at the door of B.E.D. in Miami Beach. Although B.E.D. is a nightclub (and on South Beach, nightclubs are restricted to 21 and over), it also claims to be a restaurant. Furthermore Mr. Stirman was not with a group of "rowdy young people" but with his mother and sister. Interestingly enough, as he puts it: "My sister, a year-and-a-half younger, was already halfway though the door, and I was the one faced with the potential of this guy, with a neck bigger than head, ruining our evening. I was nervous and annoyed.... I had not known I would need identification to eat dinner with my family."

Of course there's a side issue here: Why would the underage girl get in and not the guy? But I don't want to lose focus, so I'll let Mr. Stirman's words speak, as they should, for those who are being denied entrance to so-called upscale restaurants based on their ages: "Had it been my friends I was with, I could understand being turned down entrance. If I am getting discriminated [against] while in the care of my parents, then I think the law is getting insulting."

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