Is there something about Chuck E Cheese that pushes parents over the edge to where they act like children, or is there a larger societal issue that just happens to be playing itself out at the place where "a kid can be akid."
If you search the Internet for "Chuck E Cheese fights" you will find a slew of videos showing parents behaving badly. Not the kind of environment people expect to experience when all they want to do is relax and have fun on their child's special day.
Glenn Kirkland, his parents and other family members went to this Chuck ECheese in Oak Lawn for little Gamire's party February 3rd. Felecia Pate, Gamire's mother and Kirkland's former girlfriend, was also there, but in a separate group with her friends and family.
The problem was Kirkland brought his new girlfriend. That miffed Pate and especially her two older sisters, Latrice and Sharda McGuire.
"Sharda was doing most of the screaming and hollering, matter of fact Sharda was more upset with the girl being there than the baby's mother was," saidGamire's grandfather, Glenn Marks.
Just before Kirkland and his family were about to sing happy birthday and cut the cake, the celebration went south.
"They got loud, they got rowdy, we decided we better leave, started out the door and they bum-rushed us going out the door, " Marks said.
They, meaning Pate and her sisters and more than half a dozen others with them.
At other Chuck E Cheese's around the country those melees were captured on cell phone cameras. At one location in Pennsylvania, police have been called 17 times in 18 months. So just what is making these restaurants "hot spots" for hot heads?
"I don't think its Chuck E Cheese issue so to speak, it's more so it's emblematic of the lack of civility in the public sphere in the United States,"said Yan Searcy, a sociologist at Chicago State University. "People are angry."
And you add to that the noise, rambunctious kids and sometimes alcohol,which is sold in some restaurants, and you have a powder keg of stress waiting to explode.
Professor Searcy says Americans have become used to seeing violence as a way to solve problems. The economy, he says, doesn't help.
"I'm disappointed with my job, disappointed with this recession, faced with conflict then I might just end up utilizing violence rather than diffusing the situation with either walking away or utilizing what we would say, street corner diplomacy," Searcy said.
We tried to talk to some of the others involved, but they were not interested.
Chuck E Cheese told us in an emailed statement that said in part:
"In 2011, over 99.99% of approximately 65,000,000 guest visits at Chuck E. Cheese's occurred without incident…Despite our efforts, unfortunately altercations occur with a very small percentage of those who visit."
In the Oak Lawn incident, police couldn't sort out the truth so they charged eight people with disorderly conduct including Kirkland and his girlfriend. A judge banned them all from returning to the restaurant.
205 N. Michigan Avenue
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