Dan Dunbar is sitting on a bench in front of his restaurant. I walk up, shake his hand, and after a few seconds pass he says:
“You’re here about the diapers, right?”
He shakes his head sadly and goes back to looking at the highway that passes in front of Kelly’s Landing. It is mid-morning. Not a lot of traffic yet on River Road.
He doesn’t say anything for a long time and so I continue talking, tell him, yes, I’m here about the diapers. I’ve heard the story. I’ve seen the petition. I’d like to hear his side of what happened.
His eyes seem to widen when I say petition. It occurs to me he may not know that that part.
Yet he still doesn’t say anything. Just keeps shaking his head. Looks across the highway.
It is a look I have seen many times. The look of someone wishing a news story would just go away.
These are not fun days for Dan Dunbar. Embroiled as he is, in the Great Diaper Debate.
It started, the Great Diaper Debate, on August 19th, when Candice Pouliotte visited Kelly’s Landing, the restaurant Dunbar owns in Manotick. She was there for lunch, along with her infant daughter and her grandmother.
Before the meal was served Pouliotte asked a hostess if she could use a table in the back of the restaurant to change a diaper. There were no change tables in the washrooms and the hostess said yes.
A few minutes later Dunbar walked into the restaurant and was shocked to see a baby being changed on his dining table. He approached the woman and asked what she was doing. He asked: “do you know this is a restaurant?” and then he walked away.
The mother left the restaurant shortly afterwards (she did not wait for the meal) and three days later she posted a review on the Kelly’s Landing Facebook page.
It was not a kind review.
According to Pouliotte she and her family had been discriminated against at Kelly’s Landing because of the diaper incident. She wrote: “in a society where we value accessibility for all patrons, why are we turning away from infant and children’s rights to occupy public spaces.”
After posting the review, Pouliotte then started an on-line petition, demanding the Ontario government pass a law that would make it mandatory for all “public businesses” to have an “infant change tables/areas.”
As I am writing this column, the change.org petition has slightly more than 200 signatures.
It is the social media aspect of Pouliotte’s diaper-complaint that has Dunbar and the staff at the restaurant worried.
“You never know when something can go viral,” says Tony D’Aviero, the long-time chef at Kelly’s Landing. “We are getting posts on our Facebook Page from people who hate us, but they have never been inside the restaurant. It’s getting silly and scary all at the same time.”
I was unable to reach Pouliotte but her position is quite clear from her posts and petitions. Every restaurant in Ontario should have a baby change table. And if none is available, then feel free to camp out on a table somewhere.
The onus is on the business owner to provide the change table. Not on the parent to make alternative arrangements.
There is a law similar to what Pouliotte is requesting already on the books in Ontario, but it only applies to new restaurants. She wants it to apply to every public business in the province, old and new.
(I’m trying to imagine where a change table could go in a place like Melo’s Diner, where the washrooms are the size of small broom closets. Only answer I’m getting is outside.)
Anyway, the Great Diaper Debate. Pick you side. After that it’s Wet-Ones at twenty paces.
Not that Dunbar is laughing. He is reeling from the social media exposure given to his restaurant, worried how it all might play out, still a little confused that it is happening because he didn’t want someone changing a diaper on his dining table.
He told me when I arrived that he didn’t want to talk. Didn’t want to be photographed. He stood firm on the photograph part, but did relent and give me one comment before I left.
“I regret this incident happened and I apologize to (Pouliotte) for any embarrassment I may have caused her,” says Dunbar, “Unfortunately we cannot, and will not, allow anyone to change a diaper on one of our tables.”
Sounds like a good restaurant to me.
September 13, 2015