Published: 21st April, 2011
by TOM FOOT
MOTHERS are planning a flash mob “feed-in” at a landmark pub after a woman breastfeeding her baby was told to leave.
The parents are outraged that staff at the King William IV told Lauren Beaman to stop breastfeeding inside the Hampstead High Street pub on Saturday afternoon.
The pub’s owner has defended the decision to ask the 25-year-old and her seven-month-old tot, Mollie, to leave.
But Ms Beaman, who lives in Hampstead, said: “The barmaid rushed over, stood in the middle of the room, pointed at me and shouted, ‘you can’t do that in here – no, no, get out’. I asked why, and she said because ‘people are eating’. It made me feel so uncomfortable. I was shocked.”
She added: “Three men had been jeering about the ‘invasion of the prammy mammies’ or something. Then they started heckling us, yelling and waving magazines around. One woman said, ‘well, I did just get an eyeful of your boob and I’m eating’. It wasn’t like I was giving everyone an eyeful. I am very discreet. Someone has suggested we should go to the toilet. Would you want to have your dinner where people go to the loo?”
Ms Beaman’s friend Lara Johns, 34, who is pregnant, was also asked to leave.
King William IV owner Elaine Loughran insisted her pub was open to all, but that customers had complained after Ms Beaman “whupped her boob out”.
She told the New Journal: “She wasn’t one of my customers because she hadn’t bought anything. I’ve checked the CCTV and she didn’t come to the bar. She just put the baby down on the floor and then everyone was like, ‘oh my god, is she going to change the nappy?’.
“Look, I’m a mother myself, and everyone is welcome in this pub, but the fact is if my customers complain I have to act on it. I’m not against breastfeeding. There are discreet tops that women can buy, though, rather than get the whole breast out. It wasn’t the best time as well, we had lots of guys coming in to watch the FA Cup semi-final.”
She added: “It’s my legal right to refuse service to anyone.”
Legislation, which came into effect last year under the Equality Act, has made it illegal to ban mothers from breastfeeding in public places. But the law of the land also ensures licensees can refuse service to whoever they like.
Ms Beaman – a personal trainer and sports massage expert – said she got the idea for the feed-in protest after a recent “kiss-in” outside a Soho pub where a gay couple were allegedly asked to leave after embracing in an “innocent snog”. The John Snow pub was forced to close for the evening.
“I’ve been talking to the NCT [National Childbirth Trust] groups and there are lots of people in Hampstead interested in a feed-in,” said Ms Beaman. “We are always out in Hampstead. I think it would make a really powerful protest. It’s an important issue.”
Hampstead Village is often mocked for being a haven for mothers who like taking their children to the Heath and sit and chat over expensive coffee during the day.
The phrase “invasion of the prammy mammies” appears on the front page of the current issue of community magazine, Hampstead Village Voice, which has a three-page spoof photo feature on “Pramstead”.
The King William IV is one of Hampstead’s most popular pubs, known as a gay-friendly bar since the 1930s – 30 years before homosexuality was legalised. Ms Loughan said her staff were known for being “accommodating”.
According to the NHS, Camden is a national leader when it comes to breastfeeding rights. NHS Camden funded the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme, encouraging businesses to welcome breastfeeding mums and to put stickers up in their windows.