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Etiquette Lessons in a Pub? Whatever Would Miss Manners Say?

September 26, 1996

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) _ The folks at Davis’ Pub just wanted to invite some elementary school kids over to the neighborhood bar and restaurant for a lesson on etiquette, something they’ve done off and on for 10 years.

But when Charlotte Lewis saw the permission slip her third-grader brought home for the field trip, she was incensed. Sending children to a bar to teach them manners?

So Lewis complained, administrators told Eastport Elementary School to cancel the visit, and in the process a minor tizzy was created in this port city renowned for its historic inns and bars.

What would Miss Manners say?

``I really wanted to go,″ said Amanda Wimbish, one of the third-graders scheduled to go on last week’s jaunt. ``We were going to learn about manners and fire safety and when you’re at a restaurant. ... We were looking forward to eating lunch at the place with the class.″

But Lewis said children would get a mixed message from learning about manners at a bar at the same time they’re being told not to drink alcohol.

``What are they going to do? Teach them how to burp?″ Lewis said Wednesday. ``You have to be 21 years old to drink so you should have to be 21 years old to go to a place whose primary function is to promote alcohol.″

During the visit to the pub, which none of the other parents opposed, the third-graders were to be taught table manners, how to order from a menu, and the finer points of tipping.

Lee Troutner, a former owner of Davis’ who still works at the bar, said he also wanted to teach the kids other important lessons: to respect their elders and not to smoke.

``Family values, that’s what I’m trying to teach here,″ Troutner said. All of the alcohol in the bar would have been taken out of the building, he added, and the restaurant would have been closed while the kids were there.

The field trip was approved by Eastport Elementary’s principal. But Lewis complained, first to the school and then _ despite assurances that her child could stay at school during the trip _ to county school administrators.

Administrators said there was no question about canceling the trip after it was brought to their attention. School regulations clearly prohibit field trips to places that promote alcohol.

``We really didn’t have a choice,″ said Ken Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction. ``If you stopped 10 people on the street and asked them if they thought a pub promotes alcohol, probably 9 1/2 of them would.″

But the field trip’s cancellation has prompted a discussion of what will happen with other excursions that violate the letter of the law: French clubs’ trips to French restaurants where wine is served, for instance.

The rule ``really needs to be revisited,″ said Kathy Wimbish, mother of 8-year-old Amanda and president of Eastport Elementary’s PTA. ``There are field trips on airplanes and they serve alcohol. ... Where does this end?″

School officials are also looking for an alcohol-free excursion for next year’s lesson on manners, although that may be hard in Annapolis, said Jane Doyle, a spokeswoman for the county school system.

``I’ve lived here a long time and I don’t think there are any establishments that don’t sell liquor,″ she said.

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