NOTE: The original Facebook response from Graze owner Peter Harman included these sentences: "Our waiters are trained to recognize guests at various stages of inebriation. When Mr. Melchert arrived at the restaurant two of our employees noticed that he was visibly buzzed." The owner later deleted those sentences.
IOWA CITY, Iowa - A situation between an Iowa City family and a restaurant owner has exploded on a social media site. Adam Melchert wrote on his Facebook page Saturday that he and his family were meeting friends for a drink at Graze, and his baby daughter was laughing and squealing. He said a short time later, Graze owner Peter Harman approached them, saying their daughter was disrupting and bothering other guests. That's when Melchert said he announced to other people in the restaurant that they were being asked to leave. However, in a response on Graze's Facebook page, Harman wrote he never personally asked the family to leave. He said the baby was also screaming, and that when he approached Melchert about it, he started yelling at the top of his lungs, encouraging others to walk out with him. While there seem to be two different versions of what actually happened, Kembrew McLeod, a University of Iowa communications professor, said the thousands of shares and hundreds of comments that followed show how quickly complaints can spread, and the impact they can have on a business. "Social media not only speeds up the process of the classic 'word-of-mouth'' model, bad-mouthing a business or complaining about being treated poorly by a business, but it also amplifies it in a sense that it spreads it far and wide, much farther than any one person's social circle," McLeod explained. We asked several people for their opinions. Some told us that sitting next to babies is just part of going out to eat. Avery Lewis, a University of Iowa freshman, said, "I just stick it out, you know? I was once a baby, so, they're very unpredictable, so you've got to understand the situation." "If a baby acts out, it's not because he wants to, because he doesn't know better," said classmate Sandro Pineda. Others say a noisy baby - whether it's happy or upset - can present challenges for the parents and the owner of the restaurant they're sitting in. "I think he has the right to kick them out," said Patrick Walsh, another UI freshman, "but it's kind of absurd, and now that this is happening, it's going to put a damper on their restaurant." Laura Greenwood of Iowa City said she knows the challenges of taking an infant or young child to any public place. With a 6 month-old daughter, she has to take into consideration what kind of restaurants they're eating at, and at what times. "Any time we go in public and we take our child to a restaurant, we're obviously very aware of the way it affects other patrons," Greenwood explained. Melchert told us Monday that the punishment Harman is receiving on Facebook in the form of some nasty comments doesn't fit "the crime," as he called it. He said he doesn't want Graze to lose any more business than it may already have because of this situation. Melchert updated us later in the day Monday, saying that Harman offered a sincere apology for the situation, and that he accepted that apology. He also says Harman offered him a free meal for the trouble. We reached out to Harman for comment on Monday, but had received no response as of late Monday afternoon.