July 30, 2004 — -- Ladies' nights. You know what they are — they're those nights where bars offer women special deals on drinks or food to get them into the bar. It seems pretty harmless, but in in June, after one man complained, the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety ruled that ladies' nights were "unlawful discrimination."
The law does say: it's "unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on … sex." Yet, all over America, ladies' night is a long and beloved tradition.
We couldn't find a single man who minded the "discrimination." At New Jersey's Gaslight bar, women get free food on Tuesdays. One man there said, "I just think it's a great way to socialize. It's a great way to meet people."
Men at DeJai's in Belmar, N.J., said that they loved ladies' nights, even though the women there get in for free and can buy discounted drinks.
But activist and law professor John Banzhaf says it's wrong, and against the public interest. Banzhaf helped bring the lawsuits against tobacco, and he sued the fast food industry for making us fat. His students sued, and got ladies' nights banned in Washington, D.C. Banzhaf thinks they should be banned everywhere.
Banzhaf said, "Any situation where you openly discriminate on the basis of gender where you wouldn't based upon race or religion or national origin, sends the incorrect message that gender discrimination isn't as serious or as wrong as race or other discrimination. … You can't charge men more than women. It's the law."
He's right. It IS against the law — which ought to make us think about how many laws we have. Ladies' night is a long and useful tradition, but activists have actually succeeded in getting them banned in more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia.
Giving Customers What They Want
Bar owners said that ladies' night isn't about discrimination. It's about giving their customers what they want. Frank Sementa, who runs a ladies' night at his bar, says that in his bar there are "always more men than women." He says ladies' nights equal out the ratio of men to women — and his male customers like that.
"Instead of going into a club where there's 70 percent men, and 30 percent women, one night a week they can come out where it's 50-50, roughly," he said.
After the New Jersey ruling, bar owner Christos Mourtos stopped holding ladies' nights at his bar, ending a 25 year tradition. He doesn't think the claim of discrimination against men has any validity. "Ladies' night was never about the ladies, it's always about the men. Because if only the ladies show up on Wednesday night, and pay no cover and get cheap drinks, then we'll go out of business," he said.
That's right. It's about smart business, giving customers what they want. Men like to go to bars where there are women, and women often need a little price incentive to get them to come to a bar.
"I think it gets guys out, too, because they want to be with the ladies, you know," one woman told me. And she's right. If patrons don't like the ladies' night specials, there are plenty of bars that don't have ladies' night where they can go. No one forces anyone to go to ladies' night.
Banzhaf says that doesn't matter. "Discrimination based upon gender is as wrong as discrimination based upon race or religion or national origin," he said.
But there are big differences between men and women. Why can't we treat men and women differently? "In terms of going into a bar, in terms of going into a restaurant, there's no essential difference between men and women which says you can charge one more than the other," he said.
I pointed out that the women, men, and the bars all like the ladies' night promotions.
Banzhaf said I was "over-generalizing," adding, "Not all people in New Jersey are cheap women or horny men." While Banzhaf was not involved in the New Jersey case, a woman I spoke to disagrees with his views.
"I think [Banzhaf] should get a life," she said. "If it's Ladies' Night, ladies have a bargain, it attracts the men. Men are looking for ladies. Ladies are looking for men. That's the game. We're all out to have a good time no matter what it is."
One man I spoke to said he thinks people are just "sue-happy."
I agree. Give Me a Break.