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Don't Kid

Would you consider banning little ones from your location?

Customers are seeking an escape in your upscale store or restaurant. But their solitude is interrupted by a screaming toddler. If you're lucky, mom scoops the little noisemaker up and leaves. If they stay, well, your other customers get to decide whether to stay or go.

Now, some businesses--mainly restaurants and coffee shops--are creating "no kids" sections, scheduling hours when children are welcome, or banning kids altogether. "A lot of parents have this laissez-faire discipline policy, which means kids go crazy," says Robert R. Butterworth, a Los Angeles psychologist. "This [trend] is part of a backlash."

But is it good for business? Banning kids could offer a competitive advantage, but weigh whether it's worth losing the mom market. Companies "have more to gain by making it more pleasurable for parents to shop with their children," says Maria Bailey, author of Marketing to Moms. She mentions Best Buy's "Jill Stores," which have kid-friendly areas with Leapfrog toys and Playstations. "They found moms shop longer in those stores than in regular Best Buy stores," says Bailey.

Butterworth suggests surveying customers to see if starting a no-kids zone is a good idea. "You could have your regular customers vote on it," he says. Ultimately, it's up to you whether your business needs to be quiet, clean and kid-free. "The verdict is still out," says Butterworth, "on whether this will be a good business move."

This story appears in the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »