Mooner's: Bottoms up at upscale eatery

Duner's patrons got a bit of a bum rap on Friday night, July 16. It all started with a screaming child, but by the time it ended, the police had arrived and, according to eyewitness reports, one patron had gotten a bit, well, cheeky.

Bob Schotta was expecting the typical Duner's experience: fine food in a relaxed, upscale atmosphere. But when he arrived at the restaurant with his wife and neighbors a little after 6pm, he realized their plans for a quiet meal might not materialize.

"Every 20 to 30 seconds," he says, "there was an ear-piercing scream." The screams went on for nearly 35 minutes.

Schotta, who was dining in a small room adjacent to Duner's main dining room, couldn't see the source of those shrieks from his table, but he was disturbed by what he witnessed when he peeked around the corner.

Two adults, accompanied by two children aged approximately one and four, were seated in the main dining room. The adults, says Schotta, seemed "oblivious" to the younger child's screams. Patrons at neighboring tables, however, were anything but oblivious. Schotta says several customers approached the family's table to offer advice on soothing the wailing baby.

The answer to him seemed obvious.

"Even if I'd been in McDonald's," says Schotta, "I would have walked [my child] outside."

But parenting styles differ, and it soon became clear that the unsolicited advice was not appreciated.

In a shouting voice, the woman "started dropping the 'F-bomb,' " says Schotta, who could not hear the other side of the conversation.

"No one could possibly scream that loud at her," he says, noting that the man at that table continued to eat his food in silence while chaos swirled around him.

Duner's management did not return the Hook's calls by press time, but Lisa McEwan, owner of Hot Cakes, says screaming children can be a particularly tricky issue for restaurants to handle.

"Many people are willing to understand that a child can't behave the way an adult can when they're out," says McEwan, who recalls once approaching a customer whose baby had been screaming for a while. That customer became upset with her, she says.

McEwan believes she "wasn't sensitive enough in the way I approached them." But, she adds, "Parents need to be sensitive to when the crying has gone on long enough that it will be disruptive to other customers."

At Duner's, with customers attempting to take the situation into their own hands, things quickly went from bad to worse.

"The patrons went too far," says Schotta, who saw someone attempting to escort the still-cursing mother from the restaurant.

And another witness to the event says no one came out smelling like roses.

"Everybody acted exactly like the stereotypes suggest they would act," says that witness, who requested her name not be used. That witness saw a societal issue playing out on a small scale: "There was the white trash and the rich, snobby Ivyites. It seemed like no one rose above it."

But, says the witness, "Don't get me wrong: That woman acted horribly. There's no excuse."

According to Schotta, so great was the sense of relief when the woman left the restaurant that the remaining patrons erupted in applause. That may have been the last straw for the woman, who called Albemarle County Police to report the incident.

The call was no "187" (homicide) or even a "211" (armed robbery). There probably is no police code for this kind of incident.

"Somebody pinched somebody," Albemarle Police Lt. Earl Newton says. But the witness says there was more than just a pinch.

"One woman shoved, then there was a pinch from the other woman, and then a clawing," she says. The police photographed the two women's injuries, according to the witness.

After interviewing the involved parties, however, the officer on the scene determined not to file charges, according to Newton.

While the officer was still processing the scene, the mom returned to the scene of the screams with one final act. According to numerous witnesses, she dropped trou.

The police report doesn't mention that, says Newton, but for those who did witness the "Duner Lunar," including Schotta's tablemates, it was a night they won't soon forget.

"It was the highlight of my weekend," Schotta laughs. "It was surreal."

Lunars at Duner's?