AN organic restaurant has faced a furious online reaction after it banned children under the age of five.

Parents took to social media yesterday (December 12) to vent their anger after The Organic Kitchen in Queen’s Road, Buckhurst Hill, posted a sign in their window announcing the change.

Surrounded by several schools and the library, the restaurant has become a popular place for parents to meet for coffee since it opened in September.

However, manager and founder Hilary Penning said the new rule was needed as large prams blocking walkways in the small establishment were a health-and-safety “disaster waiting to happen”, and she admitted children “screaming uncontrollably” had driven some foodies away.

On Facebook, 1,000 people have been talking about the restaurant since a photo of the sign in the window went viral.

Writing publicly, Karen Sticher said: “Horrified that Buckhurst Hill's new cafe The Organic Kitchen Ltd., located next to four schools, has decided to discriminate.

“Leaving buggies outside would seem fair, an outright ban on under-fives is awful.”

Mum-of-two Heather Partridge called the decision “business suicide”.

Ms Partridge, aged 29, of Walnut Way, Buckhurst Hill, said: “I’m sure there is always going to be disruptive children in cafes, that is inevitable.

“But to tar all children with the same brush and ban that entire group of people, I think that is unfair.

“Children can be very well-behaved and if they are not you can take them outside.”

Ms Partridge said she had been planning to visit the restaurant after it became popular with her friends, but she said she would be wary of visiting with her two and four-year-olds even if the rule changes.

She said: “I would worry now, if they do change it it wouldn’t be because they wanted to, it would be because of public pressure.

“I wouldn’t feel welcome.

“It is quite isolating for new mothers as well these days.

“It can be difficult to get out and socialise so it just puts another bar on that.”

But Annie McCarthy, who has an eight-year-old son, says she fully backs the restaurant owner for her decision.

She pointed out how Sheesh, a mile away from The Organic Kitchen, also do not allow children inside.

She addewd: "I think it's a very brave move - she should never have come under all this scrutiny."

Despite the public anger, director Ms Penning said she has made the right decision for the restaurant and for herself as a businesswoman and mother of a two-year-old son.

She admitted there was a “branding issue” which had led to large numbers of parents and children visiting, rather than just the target audience of artisan food-fans.

She said: “When we opened, I did not anticipate that mums with toddlers wanted to come to us.

“We are not screaming that we are an ok kind of place for children… our core demographic is foodies.”

Although saying a growing number of toddlers had “pushed back some of the core audience,” she said the main reason for the change was large prams blocking the floor.

Children who can sit in chairs and do not need buggies are welcome, she said, and she claimed a number of customers have backed the change.