Local Restaurant Refuses to Serve Alcohol to Nursing Mother

A San Francisco mom celebrating her birthday in Half Moon Bay was refused service for breastfeeding and now the restaurant wants to apologize.

OUTSIDE SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- All she wanted for her 37th birthday last Sunday, Dec. 30, was a celebratory glass of champagne at a restaurant on the beach with her friend of 20 years.

But when San Francisco resident Madonna Graham was refused service at Miramar Beach Restaurant because “I was nursing my son at the table outside, my day was suddenly ruined, and I was left shocked and upset,” she said. “I also left the restaurant in tears.”

Graham knows there are people who believe that one should not nurse and imbibe, she said.

“However, my story is not meant to elicit a thousand opinions on the subject, nor to result in an all out boycott of Miramar. It’s just to give nursing mommies a heads up that this restaurant does not feel comfortable serving alcohol to a breastfeeding woman,” she said.

That’s exactly what the manager said to Graham after placing her order with the waitress.

“My friend and I were seated with our babies at a table outside on the patio," said Graham. "I took my 2-month-old son out of his car seat because he was starting to fuss a little. I covered up with a blanket and started to nurse him. The waitress came over and asked if we wanted something to drink and then said, ‘Obviously a non-alcoholic one.’”

Graham and her friend told the waitress that in fact they would like a glass of champagne.

Not too long after placing their order the manager came over, said Graham.

“She knelt down between us and said, ‘We don’t feel comfortable serving alcohol to a nursing mother.’ We said OK; we’ll be leaving then. We weren’t rude or loud. We packed up, and we left. I was totally shocked. My feelings were hurt, and I left in tears. We then went to another restaurant in Half Moon Bay, where we ended up having a nice lunch and a glass of champagne,” said Graham.

Since then, conflicting viewpoints on the issue are popping up on the Yelp reviews for the Miramar Beach Restaurant, with the first one posted by Graham’s friend. Here are some excerpts from the Yelp thread:

“ … when a restaurant chooses to exercise its right to refuse service to a woman who is neither breaking the law nor going against mainstream medical advice, then I feel compelled to share my negative experience. I do not consider my review a bash but rather a narrative of events. I'm sure the waitress' unfriendly manner was a reflection of her own moral discomfort with our actions, and my opinion of my prior dining experiences here stands. I feel no guilt for my behavior or that of my friend …"

“As a mother of two myself, who has been known to order an occasional glass of wine with my infant literally attached to me, I was absolutely appalled at the audacity of this restaurant staff! Besides the fact that the breast-feeding community supports each other in imbibing in the occasional (and VERY much deserved) glass of wine or beer, it is not only inappropriate but just despicable for someone to impose their opinion, masked as 'morals' on another person and completely dismiss actual medical advice. As a fellow breast feeding mom who has had a glass of wine with my baby in tow, I take personal offense to judgments made by other people about what is right and wrong on the subject …"

“Food aside, I won't continue to support a restaurant that dictates if a nursing mom is allowed to enjoy a glass of wine or champagne. Ridiculous. Every pediatrician will tell you it's when you are nursing that is the best time to enjoy an occasional glass, thus it passes before need to nurse again …"

Others on the Yelp thread are in support of the restaurant’s decision to refuse serving alcohol to the breastfeeding mother:

“NO AMOUNT of alcohol is safe to consume while nursing a baby. An infant eliminates alcohol at half the rate of am adult. Can you say, 'Impaired motor development?' When you drink alcohol, it passes in to your breast milk in concentrations similar to those found in your blood stream. You have to wait two to three hours before you breast feed again, for your milk to be clear of alcohol.”

“I want to commend the management and staff at the Miramar for refusing to serve alcohol to two nursing mothers today. I would have done it myself but not only am I just a patron, I was having trouble pulling my jaw off the floor after I overheard both women order alcoholic beverages while nursing their babies! I am having a hard time believing the post written by these women, bashing their server and the overall quality of the Miramar Beach Restaurant. I dine there regularly and the food is fantastic and so is the service. Last time I checked, it is NOT socially or even MORALLY acceptable to drink alcohol while nursing an infant or while pregnant.  I don't care what the medical community says about it.  Now lets all get real; any one who reads that sad, sorry, poor attempt at shifting blame and guilt from yourselves, on to the innocent wait staff, can see that you are pretty embarrassed not at your treatment but that you made a public spectacle of yourselves over a couple of glasses of alcohol …"

Graham says that she’s not angry at the Miramar staff, but feels “shocked and upset.”

“It’s upsetting that they would do this," she said. "Moms should know that the Miramar has a policy about not serving alcohol to breastfeeding women.”

However, there is no such policy, according to the Miramar restaurant manager who was working that day. To not serve a patron is up to the discretion of the server, who then has to go to the manager, she said.

"My gut feeling was that this just was not right and I told her that I'm really sorry but I don't feel comfortable serving her alcohol when she was nursing a baby," said manager Sheri Lewis.

But after a discussion with the owners, Lewis says she now feels differently, and "I realize this was a big mistake. It's her choice to do that, not ours," she said. "If she were ever to come in again, we would serve her. I'm so sorry this created such an ordeal."

 “I should be able to make the decision as a parent,” said Graham, "not the restaurant. This is my second child, and I’ve read what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say on the issue, that an occasional single alcoholic drink is acceptable. If I have one glass of wine on a special occasion I shouldn’t be judged for it.”

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.


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RMS January 09, 2013 at 05:54 PM
The mother should know beter than to drink alchol before during and after having a baby. Maybe, with luck, the child is not effected, that is wonderful. But, if it is you will not know it until the child is older. You are responsible for your child 24/7 until he or she is old enough to decide for themselves. As far as the beer is concerned there are old wives tales about putting whiskey on a teething childs gums, bad idea. The restaurant was wise and did the right thing. A non-acoholic drink would have served the purpose just as well. THINK BEFORE YOU ACT. BE RESPONSIBLE......
djsambiz January 09, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Well, some mothers carry the marijuana card to be able to handle their kids.........
Wendy January 09, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Geeze cant she wait until after she weans her baby to take a drink !! Why would she take even a fraction of a chance if it could possibly harm her baby !! Better to err on the side of caution lady ! Obviously it all about you and your wants ! Shameful...
Amanda January 09, 2013 at 06:32 PM
I'm an attorney and there is no cause of action against the restaurant for serving 1 drink to a nursing mother - and as for "nuisance suits" attorneys are reprimanded by the state bar association if they file frivilous lawsuits. The restaurant did have the right to not serve her - but she has just as much a right to put out a yelp review based on the "moral" decision not serve her. You are misguided if you think public scrutiny and the press are bad - it keeps government and businesses from doing whatever they want. These actions are the same as not serving someone's kid high calorie food because you think the kid is too fat - no legal justification for not doing so, just pushing your opinion on someone else.
Cammie M. Melvin January 09, 2013 at 06:35 PM
No it's not crazy that they denied her service. It is their restaurant and they can deny service to anyone for any reason. Some places even have signs that state that. Second your comment about "it's her choice, her body, her child" is not true anymore because right now across the country schools and hospitals are forcing people to get vaccinations against their wills and beliefs, and made to participate in things that go against their morals for themselves and their child so that statement doesn't hold water. If she wanted a drink so much she should have gone to a liquor store bought a bottle and went home and drank it to her hearts desire. No muss no fuss!
ray January 09, 2013 at 06:43 PM
More people who don't know what they're talking about, have no training in the science of medicine, but that doesn't stop them from trying to run the lives of other people. Personally, I don' think women should be breast feeding their babies at restaurant tables. But I find that less objectionable than waitresses deciding what you can order.
zack January 09, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Personally I wouldnt have served her either. I used to be a manager at a restaurant and people would sue us over EVERYTHING. We even had someone attempt to sue us because he hit the cement parking barrier that prevents people from getting too close to the sidewalk and he felt we should have to pay for the damages to his car. All the mom would have to do is say the restaurant should have known better than to serve her if anything were to happen and some lawyer would take the case and hope for an out of court settlement.
Christa Bigue (Editor) January 10, 2013 at 12:05 AM
A message has been deleted for violating Patch's Terms of Use. Please refrain from name-calling and using profanity when commenting.
George Muteff January 10, 2013 at 12:53 AM
I don't usually comment to something like this, but some of the comments just beg it. They are all over the map. First of all, I suspect that all involved are nice people. Some have attempted to villainize one side or the other; that doesn't seem true, nor appropriate, in this case. Next, I can understand both 'sides' of this, but I have to say that I am with the customer on this one. The right to refuse service needs to be based on some solid ground - otherwise, it could easily be called discrimination. Example: a bartender can (& should) refuse service to a guest that s/he feels is inebriated. Why? because should that person have an accident after leaving, the bartender and restaurant are liable. The manager has already admitted poor judgment, as she should have. If the server wasn't comfortable serving, s/he should have given the table to someone else. For the restaurant to make a moral judgment based on personal feelings was, IMHO, inappropriate - hence the restatement, which was appropriate. We're talking one alcoholic beverage served after the infant's snack. That is and should be the mother's decision, again IMHO. If I understand it correctly, the order was taken, then the mom went outside to feed the young one with the intention of finishing the feeding and returning for one libation. How could that be anyone else's concern? Old saying: if you mind your own business, you'll be busy all the time.
CV January 10, 2013 at 02:03 AM
I find it rather hypocritical that many of the liberal Democrats who seem to love having government tell everyone (except themselves) how to live their lives (e.g., what size soda you can buy, what type of light bulb you can use, how big you can build your home, what type of health insurance you must have) seem to have a problem with the restaurant looking out for the health of the defenseless.
George Muteff January 10, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Might want to take a breath, CV. Seems you jump to a lot of conclusions, even bringing political parties into the discussion with zero basis. That sort of stuff is ridiculous and clouds the issue. If you think the server and manager were correct originally, just say so. If you don't, say that too; but to get into liberal, democrat and all that makes it look like you are in agreement with 90% of Americans in terms of disgust with our bitterly partisan legislators (me too) and just using the wrong forum to express it. A couple of mothers go to a restaurant for food and a drink. One breast feeds her little one outside, after ordering. She was refused service because in the opinion of the server, then the manager, she was not entitled to one glass of champaign. Let's not make it more than it was; whatta ya say, huh? And I just have to point out the irony of your closing comment. After labeling, then riding your labeled "liberals" and "democrats" as government sycophants for telling others how to live, you close doing exactly that. Funny, huh?
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:20 AM
Got a message for this manager... how about you mind your own business and let your customers worry about what they're doing as long as it's legal. What a fool
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:21 AM
What ARE you talking about? This is the best example of not posting when you drink.
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Well, if there's a manager missing the next time you go there, you'll know what happened.
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:24 AM
For openers, it's her child. Second, it's legal. Third, just tend to your own life, when it's all straightened out with absolutely nothing wrong, then you can give advice. What would you do for the welfare of a child? Nothing... that's the child's mother's job and not anyone's place. This woman wanted a glass of champagne, not a shot of heroin or to smoke a couple joints of PCP.
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Yeah, sure it is.
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:26 AM
The restaurant didn't refuse service... one manager decided what was best for someone he doesn't know. Big difference.
Poot January 10, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Yes..., and that isn't really considered a solid business practice, if you aren't aware of that. For all that guy know, those people were about to drop $500. If I was the server, I'd be a bit ticked at the loss of $75 worth of food from my families' mouths, or the inability to pay my rent... because this a-hole "felt uncomfortable" serving ONE glass of wine to someone, when it isn't his place to make that call. The fact that the restaurant know wants to apologize would tend to indicate that the owner agrees with me, not with the manager.
Kitzer January 10, 2013 at 03:48 AM
peter cat -- HA HA HA HA HA !! Your last comment says it all!!!
Kitzer January 10, 2013 at 03:50 AM
So far!!! Never say never!!!
Tommy January 10, 2013 at 03:55 AM
Right on, Bruce! If they serve her, she sues for endangering the life of her child. If they don't serve her, she sues for discrimination and mental anguish. Maybe this particular woman is not so inclined, but restaurants have no way of knowing that.
CV January 10, 2013 at 04:16 AM
@George Muteff- You seem to like telling people what to do. Perhaps I hit home with my comment?
Tina Armstrong January 10, 2013 at 07:18 AM
This restaurant did EXACTLY what it should have and I would have done the same had I been working there. Alcohol is more harmful to a child through breast milk than it is when the mother is pregnant. I, as a bartender, would not serve a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding. You might as well put a shot of booze in the kids bottle.
Love Belmont January 13, 2013 at 03:39 PM
What about the widespread use of Ritalin ? As a school teacher I observe many doctors and teachers who are happy to advocate and support the drugging of un-parented children. ADD and ADHD - these acronyms represent BEHAVIORS - and cannot be seen under any microscope. Yet there is no moral outrage directed at parents and doctors for doing this. In many cases, these drugs are more expedient than a grueling and tedious inquiry into more conservative therapies. Where is the moral outrage for this?
residentwithopinions January 13, 2013 at 04:23 PM
I'm sorry but it is nobody's decision except the mother who is BFing to decide if she herself will or will not consume alcohol. When I was pregnant I had a few glasses of wine here and there and no server refused to serve it and if they did I would have said, " my body, my choice." These damn nanny states are getting out of control, how about people maybe making their own decisions and then having to deal with the outcome? I'm just surprised we don't have the soda law NY has! Btw I small glass of champagne isn't gonna do much, especially if she just stopped feeding drinks it and doesn't feed again for 3 hours. Beer also helps with milk production and alcohol relaxes the mother so let down is a little easier.
Love Belmont January 13, 2013 at 04:30 PM
A lot of moms 'pump and dump' after they consume alcohol.
Love Belmont January 13, 2013 at 04:44 PM
To be fair to the restaurant, they DID see her breadtfeeding AND THEY ARE PROHIBITED BY LAW from serving underage people. A two mos. Old baby IS underage.
Jim Somers January 13, 2013 at 06:17 PM
What you have here are busybody server and manager with high opinions of themselves and noses out of joint.
Love Belmont January 13, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Mr.Somers, I initially thought the same thing. But small business owners cannot afford to get sued. And since they saw her breasfeeding, they would technically be serving alcohol to underage patrons.
Ethereal1 January 13, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Wish establishments were as vigilant about those who sit at the bar stool for hours and then drive away into the sunset under the influence! Personally feel no harm in one glass of champaign with food....but the baby is a minor nursing and ingesting that which mommy takes in.....so who is right? At least the mum was able to publicly nurse her child! We have come along way baby.... This is an interesting debate. Perhaps if she was sitting on a bar stool with infant verses at a table, the no service would be warranted. Hard call....legal accountability is always in the mindset of business owners and The MiraMar is a fabulous dining experience. Moral to the story.....think before you drink!


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