When Marvin Pate and his wife opened Bliss, their Caribbean restaurant outside St. Louis, they were aiming for an upscale, luxe vibe. They put jollof rice and tropical cocktails on the menu, offered hookahs for patrons to enjoy — and they banned diners under the age of 30.

Since opening its doors in May, the restaurant has operated with an unusual age restriction, allowing in only women at least 30 and men at least 35, rules that the owners have been defending as necessary to maintain the kind of “grown and sexy” atmosphere they’re aiming for. “This policy is in place to ensure a mature, sophisticated, and safe dining environment for everyone,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post.

The age restriction has polarized customers, but Pate and his team have defended them as needed to keep out a rowdy younger crowd. “It’s just something for the older people to come do and have a happy hour, come get some good food and not have to worry about some of the young folks who bring some of that drama,” assistant manager Erica Rhodes told local news outlet KSDK News.

Happy hours are billed as a civilized experience: “This is strictly for the grown and sexy, so we’re keeping it classy – ladies 30 and up, fellas 35 and up,” Bliss posted on Facebook.


Jordan Johnson, who DJs Wednesday nights at the restaurant under the moniker DJ Durrty Burrd, said the policies have drawn crowds who appreciate older-school acts including Usher, Tevin Campbell and Bobby Brown. “There’s not a problem with a younger crowd,” he said. “But this provides an environment for us so we can be around like-minded people and people who have the same energy.”

Many of their patrons seem to appreciate the restrictions. “Some people wanna celebrate or kick it to a different vibe sometimes,” one patron posted on Facebook. “Bliss gives you that. I think this is what the city needs.” And he had a message for young people: “WE’RE TIRED OF YALL TEARING EVERYTHING UP!!!!!”

But others chafed at the rules, with some suggesting that managers should simply crack down on unruly patrons if that is the problem. “Age does not guarantee behavior, as there are individuals above the age of 30-35 who may still engage in disruptive behavior,” one wrote. “It’s crucial to address the issue of behavior rather than solely focusing on age restrictions.”

Some people wondered whether the rules would hurt Bliss’s bottom line at a time when many restaurants are struggling with rising costs and tighter-than-ever margins. Others, though, just seemed to be having fun with the idea. “If u can’t eat broccoli without cheese u ain’t old enough to get in Bliss,” one wrote.

Pate told the local news outlet that he was undeterred by the criticism. “Of course, we have been getting a little backlash, but that’s okay because we’re sticking to our code,” he told KSDK News.

Johnson seconded that: “We are standing on this age restriction. It’s a brand and vibe we are trying to protect,” he said.

Legally, restaurants have the right to impose age limits because age is not a protected class in that context. Controversies around age restrictions usually have cropped up when restaurants ban children. Last year, Nettie’s House of Spaghetti in New Jersey, drew both rebuke and praise when it banned kids under 10, citing the noise and “crazy messes” they brought.

It’s far less common for such rules to target adults. But there are exceptions: In San Antonio, Horizons & More requires bills itself as a 30-and-up destination “for the grown & mature.” And in New York, cocktail bar The Auction House imposes a 25-and-up policy on Fridays and Saturdays.

Last year, two TikTokers shared a tale of being turned away from Melody’s Bar & Grill in Los Angeles because they weren’t old enough for the establishment’s 30-plus night. One response to the video seemed to come from someone who appreciated the idea of a 20-something-free zone: “I know it hurts right now, but when you are 30 you’ll understand.”