East Side Mario's in Charlottetown.
©Heather Taweel - The Guardian
Kevin Gallant of Cornwall enjoyed taking his boys, ages 13 and 3, to the bar once a week.
Of course, his sons would not have any alcohol. In fact, Gallant (not weatherman Kevin “Boomer” Gallant) didn’t choose the lounge area of East Side Mario’s in Charlottetown so he could order up a beer or two. He just went for the food and, in particular, the good prices.
The bar would offer half-price appetizers that made for a tasty, relatively inexpensive meal for Gallant and his two lads.
So Gallant was upset to learn earlier last week that the restaurant had decided to change its policy to no longer allow minors in the lounge area at any time.
Unfortunately, he says the appetizer specials only apply to the bar area after 5 p.m. when Gallant would normally take his boys out to dinner.
The change has left Gallant vowing to steer clear of this particular restaurant.
“I think it is a little bit of segregation there,’’ he says.
“It doesn’t seem right, especially when the kids aren’t to blame.’’
However, restaurant owner Kevin Murphy says the policy change, made about eight months ago, was done so with the intention of making the environment of each area of the restaurant as pleasing as possible to customers overall.
He notes East Side Mario’s is “mostly family’’ but the bar area is perhaps better off without minors for all concerned.
“We’re trying to please as many of our guests as we can,’’ he says.
Restaurants and bars are at liberty to set their own rules within the confines of the province’s Liquor Control Act, notes Jamie MacLeod, director of corporate services with the Liquor Control Commission.
He says many establishments are divided into dining and lounge areas.
Minors can eat in a licensed dining room with supervision.
Minors can eat in a licensed lounge, which can sell liquor without a meal but can also sell food, provided a parent or legal guardian accompanies them.
Many parents apparently like to have this option.
In fact, two years ago the commission increased to 10 p.m. from 8 p.m. how late minors accompanied by parents or guardians were allowed to be in a lounge area. Restaurant owners in downtown Charlottetown had conveyed their desire to accommodate families looking to go for a meal past 8 p.m., perhaps after taking in an evening show.
However, licence holders can set an earlier time than the 10 p.m. cap when minors are allowed in a lounge with parents or guardians. They can even disallow minors in their licensed lounge areas at all times, but this is rare, notes MacLeod.
MacLeod says Boston Pizza and now East Side Mario’s are the only two establishments that come to mind.
Murphy lauds the Liquor Control Commission for allowing restaurant owners flexibility.
“The policy of the Liquor Control Commission has been very progressive,’’ he says.
“There is quite a diverse offering on the Island.’’
MacLeod notes that minors are not allowed in lounge areas if there is live entertainment unless the licencee has received prior approval.
He adds that minors are not allowed in licensed establishments when trivia or karaoke is taking place.