Restaurant owner reaching out to couple who was shamed for bringing child to ballet

Chef Neal Brown wants to treat a couple that was shamed at the ballet to dinner and a show. (WTHR photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - As one of the top chefs and restaurant owners in the Midwest, Neal Brown knows a thing or two about hospitality and making people feel welcome.

That's why he's trying to find an Indianapolis couple he says were made to feel unwelcome Sunday at the Indianapolis Ballet by another patron.

"I want to buy them tickets for another performance and I want to bring them to dinner to my restaurant and cook for them," said Brown who owns Ukiyo, a sushi restaurant on North College Avenue.

Brown said the couple was at the ballet's Sunday matinee at Newfields with their baby, who was about 1 1/2 years old.

"There was a little cooing. There was a little restlessness, when the lights came down. That was it," Brown said, describing the baby.

That's why he didn't think a thing of the baby being there until intermission.

"Someone stands up behind me and says, 'How dare you bring a baby to the ballet?'" Brown said an older man told the couple with the baby.

"The whole audience gasped. I mean it was an audible gasp of everyone reacting and then a few people were like, they really reacted. Like, 'Hey man, that's not cool. You can't just call people out,'" Brown said of the people who came the couple's defense.

According to Brown, the couple left and so did the man who yelled at them.

Brown took to social media trying to find the family. He wants to make the situation right and show his support for the couple who brought their baby in the first place.

On Facebook he wrote, "Share the arts with your babies."

"We all want to expose our children to amazing cool things like the ballet and we have the right. When someone gets shamed into not being able to have that experience, I think people respond pretty strongly to that," said Brown of the support for the unknown couple.

The Indianapolis Ballet released a statement which read:

"We are deeply disheartened to learn that a family experienced any feelings of unwelcome due to an inappropriate outburst of a patron at our Sunday matinee performance of Love is in the Air. Indianapolis Ballet believes that the arts are for everyone. It is part of our mission to provide dynamic performances to the widest possible audiences, especially children. Founding Artistic Director Victoria Lyras prides herself on programming performances that are truly family-friendly. We embrace this family and encourage them to reach out to us so that we can provide another opportunity to show them that the ballet is a safe, welcome place for all."

Brown said the couple, whoever they are, is welcome at his restaurant any time, with their baby or without.

"Heck, if they want the night off, that's fine too. I understand," he said. "Everyone is aligned here that these people deserve to have a really nice day and I think we're all going to try and make that happen."