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Chuck E. Cheese, Beer and Violence

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

There are a lot of reasons to avoid Chuck E. Cheese. I’m no fan of the pizza, the animatronic show is still straight out of 1978 and I’ve had too many tokens swallowed by broken Skee-Ball machines. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, I should count my blessings that my visits to the place have never been marred by an 85-person melee involving pepper spray.

The WSJ piece pulls together a number of anecdotes from across the country in which parents – usually enraged over something kid-related, like the hogging of a game machine – come to blows. Every once in a while, we get a news story about an out-of-control hockey mom or soccer dad, but apparently, nothing touches Chuck E. when it comes to Parents Gone Wild.

While one of the explanations for the pizza-centric violence is the “mama-bear instinct,” in which parents rush to the defense of their children, that hardly seems compelling to me. Kids get poked or pushed or crowded by other kids all the time, and you don’t tend to see fisticuffs during story time at the library.

The actual underlying reason for the violence seems to be -- not a surprise -- alcohol, which is available at most Chuck E. Cheeses. Alcohol and kids is a pretty dumb mix, and the claustrophobia of the place probably doesn’t help.

I’m no teetotaler, and I’ve certainly quaffed a pinot to two over dinner with friends while the kids sacked out in front of Nim’s Island. But there is a line to be drawn. I’m not a huge fan of a bucket of beers next to the bucket of juice boxes at birthday parties, and the idea of ordering up a pitcher at Chuck E. Cheese is entirely foreign to me. Leaving aside the horror of getting tipsy and doing something dumb, the last thing I need is for my kids to get the idea that part of adulthood is constant access to alcohol.

I’m curious, though, where you draw the line. Is alcohol in front of the kids verboten? Is drinking pretty much fair game at any time, as long as it’s in moderation? Or is there a middle ground?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  December 11, 2008; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Behavior , Safety
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Comments on this topic:

" Is alcohol in front of the kids verboten?"

Is alcohol sold at sporting events? Zoos? Dance recitals? In restaurants?

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 11, 2008 7:46 AM | Report abuse

"Is alcohol sold at sporting events?"
Adult sporting events to which you take your kids - Orioles/Keys/BaySox games - yes. Youth sports events, no.

Sometimes. Usually at sit-down restaurants in the zoo.

"Dance recitals?"

Kids' recitals? Not that I know of. Professional recitals to which you take the kids? Absolutely.

"In restaurants?"

Now how about:

"In religious ceremonies?"

Yes. :-)

But BAH! HUMBUG! to Chuck E Cheese. Thank my lucky stars my kids are too old for that now.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 11, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Apparently they also serve beer to kids at Chuck E. Cheese!

Our son is still too little to care about Chuck E. Cheese, but DH has already said that he will not step foot into the place. I guess all those B-day parties will fall to me. Yay.

We do drink around our son, but we do not get drunk and would not allow him to be around anyone who was drunk.

Posted by: VaLGaL | December 11, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse


Also: Blog: On Balance (On Hiatus)

Is On Balance scheduled to resume?

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 11, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I personally have never been to the 9th level of hell known as Chuck E Cheese, but from what I understand alcohol is necessary to survive the experience!
Who the heck takes their kids to a place like that anyway?

Posted by: Catwhowalked | December 11, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I haven't been to Chuck E Cheese since I was about 8, but I'd imagine a little alcohol can make the experience more pleasant for the adults present. Note that I said "a little," not so many that you're getting into brawls and pulling out the pepper spray.

Frankly, I have no problem with the concept of drinking in front of kids. When I'm not pregnant, DH and I will have a pre-dinner cocktail 2-3x a week. It's a nice, pleasant ritual and I think it will show DH that alcohol, in moderation, is a part of life. As per usual, the key is moderation.

Posted by: newsahm | December 11, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Never been to chuck e cheese, thank goodness. It doesn't sound like my idea of fun.

But yes, we drink around the kids. We have wine or beer from time to time at home or when we take them to dinner. A glass or whatever. Friday nights, the kids get grape juice, but the parents get wine. It's just no big deal. We tell the kids that it's for grownups, and that's that.

I do remember growing up, always wanting wine during passover. My mother inexplicably one year told me it was okay. I realized later on, that it was the year I became a bat mitzvah (13). So she had some method to the madness. So I had a little bit of wine, starting then, on passover (we didn't do friday night observance while I was growing up). I suppose that that might be a guide for when the kids can have a little bit of wine (during religious observance).

We don't want it to be something that's forbidden in our house. My parents didn't drink much, but would have dinner parties, so we had a very well stocked bar in the house always. It was no big deal and they did not keep it locked up.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 11, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Took my nephew to Chucky's nightmare once, never again. The adults tend to sit in the booth area and drink and the kids go wild, unsupervised. Long story short, I'm not sure this is one we can blame on booze alone...

Posted by: Sam888 | December 11, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I loathe Chuck E. Cheese. It's like a petri dish with bad food. My mother (admittedly a bit of a snob) would say going there is mixing with the hoi polloi. I've had the misfortune to be there twice in the last 18 months for birthday parties, and will not go again no matter how much my kids beg. Adults behaving badly, kids following their example. Why would I want to be there?

Drinking around the kids: of course we do. But there's a huge difference between drinking responsibly around children and being intoxicated. Following in my family tradition, the kids are allowed a sip of wine or champagne at holiday meals or weddings. When they're maybe 10, they'll get a very small glass of their own.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 11, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Booze at a kids birthday party? Why not? As long as parents partake in moderation, what is the big deal? In fact, if a party was on a Friday or Saturday night and it didn't have beer or wine available for adults, I would think that was odd-- make it less celebratory. Moderation is the key.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | December 11, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Funny story - back when the drinking age was 18, my boyfriend and his friends would go to Chuck e Cheese for the beer - it was the cheapest pitcher around! They did get a few stares, since they had no children with them.

My kids are too old for the place, now. But I have never run into 'the horrors' that some others have. I never took them just for fun, though. Only when there was a birthday party. So, maybe it was different for that reason. We always had our own space & table, so I didn't really have to fight the crowd.

Posted by: BlueBird4 | December 11, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

changing my measured behavior because i have kids? no way.

this reeks of another example of creating a generation of babies. why tip-toe around your kids? so they can grow up imagining that mommy doesn't like her wine?

to me this is lying to your kids and has the same negative results as any other kind of dishonesty.

if you're ashamed of your behavior to the point of wanting to hide it then maybe you shouldn't be partaking.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | December 11, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Actually I scheduled my daughter's 5th birthday party there. I have found if you go to the 10:00-11:30 slot, it is not very busy or loud.

We have been a number of parties there. Only one past 12:00. It was very crowded and loud but no bad behavior.

I did not know they served alcohol. I did not see anyone drinking while I was there. But then again, even most adults refrain from drinking between 10-noon.

I personally can't stand the place(even at 10:00) but the kids enjoy it, it is a cheap party ($13 a kid), and you don't have to clean up.

I have had 4 at home parties for my daughter and I am kind of tired of the mess. I also found I spent nearly as much money at home as a chuck e cheese party. By the time I bought lunch, cake, pinata, party decorations and goody bags, I had already spent over $200.

Next year I would like to try pump it up. It is an indoor inflatable play ground. It is kind of far but at the last chuck e cheese I asked parents if they were willing to drive that far and they all said yes.

OT:One thing about birthday parties that I hate is they expect you to feed both the child and the parents lunch. You can't seem to just have a cake party these days.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 11, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I went to a Chuck E. Cheese once and not even my kids liked it. Waaay too loud, too many lights, people, screaming kids -- basically overwhelming.
I don't see a problem with kids seeing responsible drinking. I certainly enjoy a glass of wine with a nice meal and the company of good friends.

Posted by: annenh | December 11, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Oh, boy, Catwhowalked nailed it -- CEC is the ninth circle of hell. I have taken the kids a couple of times, for parties or on boring rainy nothing-to-do days, and I just can't hack it. The constant noise and flashing lights give me a headache that I can tolerate for maybe an hour before I have to leave. And the grownups behave worse than the children -- getting the toys you've "earned" is just a madhouse, as folks push and shove to get to the front. What, like they're going to run out of the 8 gazillion plastic doohickeys?

On the other hand, I don't have a problem drinking in front of my kids. Practically speaking, I don't very much; my most common drink is a glass of port once or twice a week to relax and celebrate making it through another day -- which pretty much by definition can't happen until the kids have gone to bed. :-) But we'll have a glass of beer or wine at dinner with them periodically. As with many things, I don't think it's a problem unless you do it to excess.

Posted by: laura33 | December 11, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I personally don't see how we can blame alcohol when alcohol is served at many family restaurants and it doesn't cause problems there!

I also would guess many of the parents engaging in this bad behavior weren't drinking.

Posted by: EAR0614 | December 11, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

It's funny; I actually like Chuck E Cheese! The pizza is not bad at all (as compared to the cheap greasy stuff I remember from my college days) and it is a pretty safe place for my kids to run around and play with other kids and enjoy a variety of games. My kids love it and other than the repetitive music, which can drive you insane after a point, I don't mind it. Our school holds fundraisers there. I don't think our local Chuck E Cheese serves alcohol, but since I don't drink I've never looked for it either. I've never seen any fights break out though!

Posted by: johnsonweider | December 11, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

More than (in addition to?) the alcohol, I think it's the overall scummy atmosphere that most Chuck E. Cheese stores seem to have. My kids have outgrown it now, but we had the "joy" of outings to CEC a few times to different stores. Every one was the same: filthy and full of rude, trashy people.

Posted by: drewdane | December 11, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Phyllis Diller said it best: "I don't believe in drinking in front of the kids, and if they're not around, who needs it?"

Posted by: Baltimore11 | December 11, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I have been there mostly for birthday parties and it is fine for a rainy or snowy day. I can handle the noise for about two hours. I actually have tokens from a summer birthday party and am waiting for a day to use them.

DH and I don't drink alcohol. Neither of us likes the taste and we both like to eat
too much.

Posted by: shdd | December 11, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

We believe that teaching kids that appropriate consumption of alcohol is fine. It's the overuse that causes problems. We'll have an occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner or while getting together with friends and family. We'll even let the kids have a little taste if they want. (As has been discussed here and in OB many times, it's not illegal in MD to give your own kids alcohol in your own house.)

The kids do have an uncle who drinks way, way too much, and they can see what it does. I hope they'll learn from his mistakes.

On the other hand, it's context. Our youth sports program is fighting hard against a couple that wants to open a restaurant with liquor license next to our ballpark. We have enough problems with parents getting upset about "bad calls" from umpires without them being able to run across the parking lot and grab a quick beer.

When oldest DD celebrated First Communion, the priest made mention of the wine retaining its physical properties - there's still alcohol in it. He mentioned that there are a few families who refuse to let their children participate in that part of the ceremony because of it.

Now that the kids are (mostly) late teens, we're facing the alcohol issue head-on. Oldest DD is nearly 20. When I was in college, the drinking age was 18, so I really have a hard time telling her not to drink in moderation. The only thing I can tell her is to not get caught, or she'll be helping some MD jurisdiction make up its budget shortfall. She's seen any number of her friends nailed for underage drinking. You mostly enter a diversion program and pay several hundred dollars; then they expunge the record.

Her boyfriend's father is an alcoholic with a long, long history of problems, so the BF doesn't drink at all. (BF is 21.) He tolerates DD and others drinking around him because he enjoys the social life, but he's the first to make really nasty comments if someone's drinking too much.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 11, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I think what most people are missing here in comparisons are the other factors involved. When you go to Applebee's, it's expected to stay in your seat. When you go to CEC, you're expected to not stay in your seat and run around. There's a lot of lights and sounds that stimulate children but aggrivate adults.

Sporting events have a nice mix of different things to do. If your child is restless, take him/her on a walk around the stadium, there's bound to be something to do and you can use the time to relax yourself.

Movies, you're expected to stay in your seat and watch the movie, everybody is in the same boat, trying to enjoy the moving pictures on the big screen.

You'll notice, that in all of these cases, that there is a common goal. Restaurant: EVERYONE is there to eat dinner. Sports Event: EVERYONE is there for the game, with minor distractions. Movie: EVERYONE is there to watch the movie. Amusement Parks: EVERYONE is there to go on rides and enjoy shows.

Chuck E Cheese, however, there are many reasons. Kids go for the games, the balls, playing with other kids while parents are there to supervise the kids, get away from the house, try to relax but can't because of the lights and sounds and having to keep an eye on their kids who are running around with other kids of parents they don't know. There's uncertainty there.

The biggest problem with Chuck E Cheese, it's a different experience for the adults than it is for the children. Adults tend to be more stressed, add alcohol to the mix and some will become less stressed. Others though will become angrier. This is a volitile situation that people are thrown in to, just look at the comments about how the adults avoid the place like the plague, but I bet their kids would love to go today, tomorrow and all next week.

Take alcohol out of this situation and you will see a decrease in these grown-ups acting like children.

Posted by: dj1123 | December 11, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

i agree that there should be a sign over the doorway that says "abandon hope all ye who enter here". i would prefer the ninth circle of hell to chuck e cheese.

my rule about drinking in front of my son is simple; if i have to drive i don't drink period even if i'm only having a single glass of wine or a beer. i think the other thing is to think about the message you're sending your child when it comes to alcohol. if the whole purpose of the bbq, picnic, or ballgame is to get together to drink then that's the wrong message.

Posted by: quark2 | December 11, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I have found if you go to the 10:00-11:30 slot, it is not very busy or loud.

We have been a number of parties there. Only one past 12:00. It was very crowded and loud but no bad behavior.

I did not know they served alcohol. I did not see anyone drinking while I was there. But then again, even most adults refrain from drinking between 10-noon.

I personally can't stand the place(even at 10:00) but the kids enjoy it, it is a cheap party ($13 a kid), and you don't have to clean up.


I had a similar experience during the 11 to 12:30 slot. I didn't even know they served beer. I think that's beyond stupid, but hey... My kids' parties were at Planet Fun (for my daughter) and Chuck E. Cheese (for my son) this year.

I did have a special needs parent moment at Chuck's. My son chose Chuck E. Cheese for the party, but then didn't want to go near him during the "performance." As a matter of fact, the guests from his special needs school all were bothered by Chuck and the singing waitresses. My son copped an attitude. Another boy ran away. One obviously was patiently enduring the show. Another covered her ears. They all did better at the games. I personally thought Planet Fun was better, but it's more expensive.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | December 11, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

And speaking of hogging games, why was a grown man hogging a game at Chuck E. Cheese recently, with goo gobs of tickets tightly clutched in his hand?

Maybe he had too many beers!

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | December 11, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Ah, I remember well having to haul my kids to those Sunday afternnon birthday parties at that Dante's inferno known as Chuck E. Cheeae. They would put the football game on a tv in the corner where us dads could quietly enjoy our beer (between those dumb stage shows). I will always be grateful for that.

Posted by: Skeptick | December 11, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

My favorite line from the WSJ piece- "There's a biker bar down the street, and we rarely get calls there."

So, when little Johnny wants to go to CEC, you just say, "No son, Chuck E. Cheese is too rough. We're going to the biker bar where they know how to behave like adults!"

Posted by: kguy1 | December 11, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The Chuck & Cheese that I take my son to does not sell alcohol. (Fairfax, VA) I've never expereinced any problems with parents or kids.

(If they did I probably woudn't take him.)

Posted by: ADmom | December 11, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

lol...these comments are funny. but I think the real issue we have here is not the beer being sold at CEC, but the fact that parents and kids who behave badly in this establishment DO this! The beer is nothing more than an escape from reality. Think of and pop are sitting at a table of 6 or more friends, their friends children and their children are running around like Mo-Bots...the parents don't give a crap, the friends don't give a crap, the patrons who look for a more civilized experience care the WORLD what's going on around them...but face it...Chuck E. Cheese promised them that if they came he would give them and their kids a good time. Screw your dysfunctional household, who cares if you guys are miserable having kids yell and scream all day...just give them to me, and I'll make you BOTH happy! What more could a parent want?

Get the picture? Chuck E. doesn't care as long as he's getting paid. He's such a

Posted by: cbmuzik | December 11, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

When Obama closes Gitmo, we can start sending the detainees to Chuck E. Cheese. The war on terror will end in 2 weeks.

Posted by: CubsFan | December 11, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I don't have a problem with alcohol (in moderation) around kids, but Chuck E. Cheese is the wrong place.

I don't like CEC even without alcohol. Everybody gets all wound up. Adding beer to that mix is a mistake.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 11, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The two C.E.C.'s I know of in the Baltimore area do not serve alcohol, so I haven't had to deal with that kind of behavior. I have dealt with adults with alcohol behaving badly at the state fair and several amusement parks, not pleasant, and no, I don't approve. It gives the impression that simply by over consumption of alcohol all bad behavior is excused.

Posted by: JennyA1 | December 11, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

When Obama closes Gitmo, we can start sending the detainees to Chuck E. Cheese. The war on terror will end in 2 weeks.

Posted by: CubsFan | December 11, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Send 'em to ArmyBrat's house for the quickest unconditional surrender....

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 11, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Anyone notice that this happened in Flint, Mich.? As in "Roger & Me"? Michael Moore? General Motors?

I blame Roger Smith.

Posted by: bs2004 | December 11, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

If parents would simply let children fight their own battles, maybe we would stop raising a bunch of wussies with no backbone and a penchant of entitleism...

Posted by: indep2 | December 11, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

fr CubsFan:

>When Obama closes Gitmo, we can start sending the detainees to Chuck E. Cheese. The war on terror will end in 2 weeks.

SNORK! good one!

Posted by: Alex511 | December 11, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Awww.. I love you too, jezebel, bless your little heart. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 11, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, let's see, before there was Chuck E Cheese, we used to go to a local pizza parlor with my parents and another family. And yes, our dads would get a pitcher (or more) of beer, we'd all eat pizza and drink soda, and there were a few video game machines to entertain us as well. I really don't understand why people get so wierded out by adults drinking in moderation in front of kids. As long as nobody gets plastered or drinks and drives (which is indicative of other issues), for a huge part of the population, having a drink is a part of everyday life.

How is Chuck E Cheese any different? I know it's a little over the top, but the one where we live in Colorado (different than those I remember from when I was a kid--it's all one big room, not separate rooms for eating and gaming) is a clean, bright, sunny, open place, and most of the games are age appropriate for small children. There are only a handful that are for older kids (more violent, shooting games, for example). You don't have to order the cardboard pizza, or any food while you're there. Games are one token each, which is a much better deal than any place else, especially if you have a coupon, it comes out to about 8 games for $1. We probably go there a couple times each winter when the weather is too abysmal for the park, but we want to get out of the house for a while.

Posted by: MPAmom | December 11, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

There is a pretty new CEC near the Dulles Town Center. Took my son there, had a beer and left in a great mood. He loved it. No problems at all...

Posted by: WrongDog | December 11, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

CubsFan --

Please! I thought we had all agreed torturing detainees was NOT the answer!

Now, once they've been tried in a court of law and found guilty of terrorism or war crimes of some heinous nature, then sure --a few hours at CEC would be a fitting punishment.

Posted by: gettingdizzy1 | December 11, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

We don't drink much. I think we had wine last Christmas? We drink a bit of beer but a pack of 12 can last us months.

Because we don't drink much and we only have the kids for 2 days a week, it translates into not drinking in front of the kids. I think once or twice in the last year we have had a beer after they went to bed. To a large degree that congratulations for having survived a rough day.

I personally don't have a problem with drinking in front of the kids although I would not want to get drunk.

Posted by: Billie_R | December 11, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is missing the point: It's important for your children to retrieve your beers from the fridge for you----such "chores" made me the confident, if highly unstable, man I am today. Seriously, come on. We are raising a generation of shrinking violets. A funny take on this subject is at See rule #8...

Posted by: mccarthygang | December 11, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

when i was in my 20s, i was a terrible he11 raiser...every weekend was spent drinking up a storm with friends and having a good i am in my early 40s and have an 8yo daughter and 6yo son,i don't drink now..not that i am trying to be pious or set an example, the desire is simple not there...there just doesn't seem to be a point to it anymore...I have never been to a CeC and hopefully I never will, being a chef, the idea of my kids eating that food makes me feel a little ill...anyway, I dont understand how a children's theme can serve alcohol. Who is driving home?

Posted by: dac04 | December 11, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I also noticed that it was in Flint, bs2004. From what I know of that town, you could have said an 85 person brawl happened during services at a church there and I wouldn't have been at all shocked. But this issue with Chuckie is pretty common. Near where I grew up, in Brookfield WI (a mainly white collar suburb of Milwaukee) they've had all sorts of issues relating to misbehaving adults at their Chuck E Cheese. The last I heard, the city finally revoked Chuckie's liquor license.

Posted by: bill3 | December 11, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Chuck E Cheeses have become total ghetto/trailer-trash hot spots. Big shocker that booze fueled brawls occur there all the time.

Not having been there in over twenty years, I took my two young kids a couple of months ago. It was totally chaotic and understaffed, and littered with misbehaving and unsupervised kids. We had fun playing the games, but 48 hours later our whole family came down with a HIDEOUS norovirus (REALLY bad intestinal bug).

Never again.

Posted by: GerdTopsnic | December 11, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm - been to CEC once, for my niece's 4th (or maybe 5th or 6th) birthday, and she's turning 16 later this month. Don't remember any beer, and if it had been available, my sister would have had a pitcher for the parents.

Anyway, older son hated the place - wa-a-a-ay too loud for an autistic kid. Younger son either wasn't born yet, or was at home with DH.

Drinking around the kids, sure. How else will they learn to manage alcohol responsibly if their parents aren't setting an example. We have wine with dinner most evenings, and our favorite Mexican restaurant makes the best margaritas in town.

Older son refuses our offers to let him taste - until he's 21 and it's legal, he's going to follow the "rules". Gotta love that trait of the autistic brain!

Younger son has had tastes of beer, wine, and margarita. He hated all the tastes, except once we had a nice light chardonay (we usually drink reds) and he liked that.

Posted by: SueMc | December 11, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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