Baby Barflies

Beer, whine and breastfeeding?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area
    Lucas, 5, drinks a root beer at Cato's Ale House in Oakland.

    Binkies and booze? For many parents, toting their tots to happy hour is a way to have some 'me' time without ditching the baby. But for some bar-goers, offspring =  buzz kill.

    New mom Jennifer Gabbold totes her Bjorn-sized 3-month-old, Floyd, to Vino Rosso. The Bernal Heights wine bar even caters to parents with its weekly Wine and Whiners night. On Wednesdays from 4 p.m.-7 p.m., the Italian wine bar puts toys instead of candles on the tables, and stroller moms and dads fill the neighborhood bar. Gabbold says, "Every now and then it's nice to get out of the house for something other than going to the playground or library or the park."
     
    Vino Rosso co-owner, Vega Freeman-Brady, says the bar is packed during the weekly parent parade. She came up with the family-friendly night with her own situation in mind. “We started [Wine and Whiners] when we opened because we had a 5-month-old and we wanted to include him,” she says.
     
    At Cato's Ale House in Oakland, Friday nights are the informal "new mom" night. A posse of stroller-pushing moms takes over the five tables in the middle of the dining room and bust out the sippy cups alongside their Chardonnays.
     
    "It's a breastfeeding bonanza." says bar manager Josh Huber. "You can imagine a lot of new moms. You see a lot of children here."
     
    Tuesday night the McClung family drove in from Lafayette. They say Cato’s was their neighborhood pub long before their three boys came along. It was brewskies for mom and dad, root brewskies for the kids.
     
    "My kids aren't the best behaved.They have their moments and sure we get some dirty looks," says mom Rory McClung. But she adds, she’s well versed in bar etiquette, “Take them out if they’re misbehaving." (For the record, we spent about an hour shooting our story at Cato's, and Dallas, 11, Lucas, 5, and Everett, 3, were melt-down free and quite well-behaved. The image above is Lucas and he's downing a root beer. We didn't stick around for the sugar high.)
     
    But plenty of barflies say crayons and cocktails don't go down so smoothly. They want to enjoy their bar crawl, without any crawlers in sight. Tim Mitchell of San Francisco says a breastfeeding baby put the kibosh on his good time. "There was a woman breastfeeding next to me. That was a turnoff! I was trying to have a drink with my friend so that’s where I draw the line," he says.
     
    Aisha Canfield of Oakland says she thinks bars are an inappropriate place for kids, of any age. "Alcohol can expose kids to certain behaviors and language I wouldn't want my child exposed to. There’s been times when I'm like, ‘You should leave. Or why can't you find a babysitter?'" she says.
     
    And that may be in part, why it's more popular to take babies into the bar. The going hourly rate for a sitter is $10-15 in the Bay Area. Which can be tempting for cost-cutting parents who want extra beer money. We are kidding, of course. But it does give new meaning to BYOB. Bring your own baby.
     
    So, what do you think? Can you recommend a baby-friendly bar in your 'hood? Or an infant-free watering hole? Let us know by posting your comments to "Sound Off."