Panera’s Discriminatory Policy Reply

Panera, a cafe located on 35th Avenue, is where students normally like to rendezvous after school. Its convenient location near the school makes it a short walk away, and its plush chairs and good food make it an inviting place for conversation. However, plastered on the glass front of the store these days is a sign that actually prohibits any socialization–for kids, that is. The sign states a new policy that Monday through Friday after 3pm, people under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter without an adult. “This is the only Panera in the whole chain that has this rule,” Sofia Caraballo ‘16 noticed. “There are four schools around Panera and we are the main source of money for them. They’re going to lose their business.”
On December 7th 2012, several groups of students from BSGE tried to hang out at Panera after school, something that they would typically do every other Friday. The rules have clearly changed, because they were not permitted to enter. The sign was stuck outside for as long as anyone could remember, but as usual the students ignored the sign, pretended to be illiterate and walked right in. It didn’t work this time around, because the store manager is no longer being lenient and he is enforcing the policy with rigor. “It wasn’t even three o’ clock yet and they wouldn’t let us in,” said Beatrice McAviney ‘16. “They wouldn’t even let us go in to just order and leave.”
To explain their ban on teens, Panera reported a recent incident when teenagers from a neighboring school were caught smoking marijuana in the bathroom. “Maybe they’re watching out for customers’ safety–they don’t want us disturbing the peace in their restaurant,” said Natalia Belchikov ‘16. Kids in general tend to be more rowdy in public places than adults, but some view Panera’s reason for enforcing the policy as a form of ageist discrimination.
“The thing is, they’re doing this to us because we’re kids and seen as powerless. If an adult was caught smoking weed in the bathroom, they wouldn’t be able to ban all adults,” said Brianna Carty ‘16. Furthermore, banning all teens just because a few used illegal drugs on the premise sends a message of what they think of teens in general. “It’s discriminatory; it’s just like saying ‘all black people can’t come in because all black people take drugs,’ which is racist and not true,” said Mahaut Brooks ’16. “Just because one teenager smoked weed in the bathroom, doesn’t mean that all teenagers smoke weed and will go to the cafe for that reason.”

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