Buckhurst Hill restaurant boss 'abused' over toddler ban

Hilary Penning behind the till Image copyright Adam Penning
Image caption Hilary Penning (centre) decided to ban young children from her eatery over concerns about noise levels and the safety of buggies around tables

A restaurateur who banned under-fives says she has been stopped in the street and labelled a "disgrace to motherhood".

Hilary Penning only opened the Organic Kitchen in Buckhurst Hill three months ago.

Mrs Penning, who has a toddler herself, decided to ban young children from her eatery in response to concerns over noise levels and buggies around tables.

But some claimed the move was "discriminatory" against parents.

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As first reported in the Epping Forest Guardian, a sign put up about the ban was shared on social media and a discussion on the website Mumsnet became so heated that the thread was terminated this week.

Mrs Penning's husband Adam said his wife had since been the victim not only of comments on social media but also physical "intimidation".

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On three occasions, he said, his wife had been verbally abused in the street.

"The biggest surprise has been the vehemence and vitriol in the backlash against a policy which was taken for various reasons.

"It seems to have brought some of the worst out of local people. It is a minority. The majority have supported us.

"It has stirred up a hornets' nest."

Image copyright The Organic Kitchen
Image caption The owners of the Organic Kitchen said they were surprised by the "vitriol" expressed at their move to ban under-fives

He said when the couple started the 10-table business they wanted to attract a mix of business people, home-workers, "discerning foodies" as well as parents.

"It is a small intimate dining experience and when you get to a stage when your aisles are clogged with buggies and pushchairs, that is a concern because we do table service as a restaurant.

"When you have waitresses and waiters having to step over buggies while carrying boiling water it is a serious health and safety issue."

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