Ladies’ night deals may violate Minn. law

Ladies’ nights free drink specials may be a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

University seniors Sarah Arlt, left, Lauren Lammers, middle, and Amber Johnson enjoy free drinks during Ladie’s Night at Preston’s Urban Pub on Thursday.

University seniors Sarah Arlt, left, Lauren Lammers, middle, and Amber Johnson enjoy free drinks during Ladie’s Night at Preston’s Urban Pub on Thursday.

Katherine Lymn

Free drink specials that women receive at some Twin Cities bars during ladiesâÄô nights may be a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, according to the stateâÄôs Department of Human Rights. The department is currently investigating the drink specials at five Twin CitiesâÄô bars and restaurants in response to complaints of gender discrimination, department spokesman Jeff Holman said. LadiesâÄô nights generally consist of one or two hours of free or reduced-price drinks for women while men pay full price. âÄúGender-based pricing violates the Human Rights Act,âÄù department Commissioner James Kirkpatrick said in a statement. The department would not comment on the establishments involved, as the investigation is ongoing. Holman said if an establishment is found to have violated the Human Rights Act, it may be forced to pay damages to complainants or end the ladiesâÄô night specials ruled discriminatory. Technicalities According to Minneapolis lawyer Linda Holstein, specific wording in the Minnesota Human Rights Act distinguishes it from other human rights acts that specify âÄúpreference given to one gender over anotherâÄù as gender discrimination. In 1994, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a ladiesâÄô night at PearlâÄôs Nightclub in Madison violated that stateâÄôs equivalent human rights act because the act prohibits âÄúpreferential treatment to some classes of persons in providing services or facilities in any public place of accommodation or amusement because of sex.âÄù The Minnesota Human Rights Act does not contain the word âÄúpreferential.âÄù âÄúJust those words alone would indicate that right now âĦ the Minnesota law does not lend itself as easily to one of these kinds of cases,âÄù Holstein said. Nevertheless, Holstein said the phrase alone is not a decider for the Twin Cities lawsuits. Enough complaints of gender discrimination âÄúcan convince, perhaps, a legislator to take this on and amend the Minnesota Human Rights Act,âÄù she said. âÄúThe wording of these statutes makes so much difference,âÄù she said. Holstein said the complaints against ladiesâÄô nights would be stronger had men been asked to pay more than they would have any other night. âÄúThat would be discrimination,âÄù she said. The âÄòanti-feministâÄô These types of allegations against ladiesâÄô nights are not new. Roy Den Hollander, a New York lawyer, has filed numerous lawsuits and complaints against establishments with ladiesâÄô nights in New York City. Den Hollander began his crusade against ladiesâÄô nights in 2000 after being charged to enter a nightclub where women got in for free. He has since brought a series of complaints and suits against nightclubs in New York City, the majority of which were thrown out. In the one case which Den Hollander considered a success, he was sent a settlement check of $40 by a club owner and was able to get in free at his next visit. Reaction to his campaign has been predictably sour, Den Hollander said. But if the roles were reversed and women were the alleged victims of discrimination, he predicts there would be little opposition. âÄúIâÄôve been called every name under the sun,âÄù he said. SallyâÄôs Saloon and Eatery in Stadium Village has their popular LadiesâÄô Night on Wednesdays, when women drink free from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. SallyâÄôs general manager Don Bye said the practice is not discriminatory due to a similar, albeit shorter, âÄúGuysâÄô NightâÄù on Tuesdays, when men drink free from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Den Hollander does not see this as a form of mitigation. âÄúItâÄôs discrimination at one time, itâÄôs discrimination at another time,âÄù he said. Through his self-labeled âÄúanti-feministâÄù work, Den Hollander has come to one conclusion: âÄúItâÄôs obvious âÄî the courts are useless for guys.âÄù Other factors Holstein raised the question of sexual identification discrimination as well. Since the ladiesâÄô night establishment thrives on the business of men who come to meet the women, âÄúit is kind of designed for heterosexual men âÄî maybe itâÄôs discriminatory towards gay men,âÄù she said. The reported rape at a LadiesâÄô Night at SallyâÄôs in May raises the issue of whether the specials make women a target for sexual assault. âÄúAs a defense attorney, I wouldnâÄôt immediately jump to the conclusion that the ladiesâÄô night caused this particular occurrence,âÄù Holstein said. Bye stressed that LadiesâÄô Night at SallyâÄôs is simply a promotion to get both men and women seeking women into the establishment. GuysâÄô nights are simply not as popular as ladiesâÄô nights, he said. âÄú[Men] are not banging down the doors.âÄù