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NJ Applebee's locations offer free kids meals after local restaurant bans children under 10

After a Tinton Falls, N.J. restaurant announced it's prohibiting diners under 10, local Applebee's are offering free kids meals and getting a "fantastic" reception.

More than 30 Applebee’s locations in New Jersey have made it clear that they’re family-friendly after a Tinton Falls restaurant announced its decision to prohibit children under 10 years old from dining in.

Tim Doherty, COO of Doherty Enterprises and franchisee of 36 Applebee’s restaurants in the Garden State, announced his stores would be offering free kids meals with the purchase of an adult entrée through February 26.

"Reception has been fantastic," Doherty told FOX Business’ Madison Alworth at the Tinton Falls location Monday. "We're all about kids in Applebee's, and lots of families have come in and enjoyed a free meal."

The generous promotion comes in response to a controversial announcement from another Tinton Falls restaurant called Nettie’s House of Spaghetti, which revealed via a Facebook post that beginning March 8, it will no longer seat parties with children under the age of 10.

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"We love kids. We really, truly, do. But lately, it’s been extremely challenging to accommodate children at Nettie’s. Between noise levels, lack of space for high chairs, cleaning up crazy messes, and the liability of kids running around the restaurant, we have decided that it’s time to take control of the situation. This wasn’t a decision that was made lightly, but some recent events have pushed us to implement this new policy," the statement reads on Nettie’s Facebook page. "We know that this is going to make some of you very upset, especially those of you with very well-behaved kids, but we believe this is the right decision for our business moving forward."

Nettie’s staff reportedly told Alworth the reaction from customers has been "emotional," noting that "was not the intention" of their decision.

"I don't really think it's fair," a young Applebee's diner told Alworth Monday. "I think everyone should be allowed to eat at a restaurant."

Tinton Falls residents also claimed the dining debate has become the talk of the town, saying "it’s all over social media."

"To each their own, I'll just choose to go somewhere else, and it is what it is," one woman chimed in.

"I kind of see both sides," a second woman said. "It used to be a family place."

"I think it's pretty much their right to do whatever they want with their restaurant," one young man added.

Aside from being a welcoming place for young children and families, Doherty noted the Applebee's promotion also helps at a time the U.S. consumer is seeing their pocketbooks squeezed.

"We're all about driving family and kids into the restaurant. It's a great promotion, we couldn't be happier," Doherty said. "We're all about the community and driving sales, and it's been a great reception."

On Presidents Day, Doherty hopes to see more families come to Applebee’s and share a meal together.

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"I've been chatting with the general manager earlier today, and she said that the reception has been fantastic. The kids were having a great time at the restaurant yesterday and drove great sales, actually, yesterday as well," the franchisee said.

The comments section on Nettie’s Facebook post announcing the decision notes it has been edited by the restaurant to limit responses. In one reply to a Facebook user, Nettie’s said: "It’s become a liability to us – kids running around the restaurant in circles when we’re trying to carry trays of food and drinks has made doing our jobs extremely difficult."

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