Sally’s Saloon and Eatery under scrutiny

Steve Horner said he instigated the investigation when he filed complaints.

Katherine Lymn

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined that Sally’s Saloon and Eatery in Stadium Village violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act due to gender-based pricing.

The department has been investigating Sally’s and four other Twin Cities establishments’ ladies’ nights for approximately one year.

“It is the Department of Human Rights’ position that ladies’ night is illegal,” MDHR Commissioner James Kirkpatrick said in a statement last month.

In its investigation, the department found that the Minnesota Human Rights Act “does not provide a profit-making exemption to the public accommodations provisions of the Act,” MDHR spokesman Jeff Holman said.

Sally’s has continued its Wednesday night special — during which women drink free for two hours — in spite of the investigation.

Sally’s general manager Don Bye would not comment, as the investigation is ongoing.

Steve Horner, a seasoned crusader against ladies’ nights, said he instigated the investigation when he filed complaints against Sally’s and the four other bars.

The others are Bogart’s Nightclub in Apple Valley, Dive Bar in Maplewood, Jersey’s Bar and Grill in Inver Grove Heights and Wild Onion Bar and Restaurant in St. Paul, according to Horner.

Dive Bar ceased ladies’ nights immediately after hearing of the complaints, according to a Star Tribune article.

Horner’s five charges were consolidated into a larger bundle of complaints called a commissioner’s charge, Holman said, which effectively removed Horner from having any role in the suits. It also nixed the possibility of Horner receiving any money from the suit.

Horner said the department dropped his charges and filed them anew as a commissioner’s charge so as to not appear to have been sleeping on the job, he said.

Speaking generally, Holman explained that the MDHR will file individuals’ charges combined as a commissioner’s charge to expedite the process.

Holman also said the department will at times transfer individual complaints to a commissioner’s charge if a complainant does not have standing to file because he or she did not directly experience the alleged discrimination.

Horner may fall into this category, as he filed his complaints after simply calling the five bars and asking if he would be granted ladies’ night deals.

Horner last filed similar complaints in Minnesota in 1992 against Gator’s Bar, which was then located in the Mall of America. He was successful and won a small cash settlement.

Horner said he believes ladies’ nights are a form of favors granted to those groups society sees as “oppressed and disadvantaged,” such as women.

He was motivated to action by what he sees as hypocrisy, he said. While women seek equality and liberation, “when it’s belly up to the bar time, the women want favors,” he said.

“The women who bark at me for ruining their fun,” he said, “[are] the same ones fighting for equal rights.”

After moving away from Minnesota in 1999, Horner remained active in his fight.

“I have filed in many, many states for 15 years,” he said. The majority of Horner’s complaints were thrown out.

“Arizona laughed at me. There was nothing there,” he said. “California scoffed. Idaho took it serious, made some filings, but really got nowhere fast.”

Colorado was where Horner saw the most success. There, Horner said he made roughly $6,000 from approximately 15 different infractions.

None of the $6,000 has gone to attorney’s fees, as no attorney has been open to taking his case, Horner said. He has represented himself in every court meeting.

“I’ve asked many, many, many attorneys if they would help support me,” he said, adding he felt the attorneys did not want to associate themselves with such a controversial topic or appear “anti-woman.”

Between 1999 and 2009, when Horner was not active in Minnesota, no other complaints were filed.

“That’s really sick,” he said of the stagnancy in complaints during his absence. “What a bunch of wimps.”

When he filed his newest complaints in June 2009, Horner was living in Mankato for a few months and saw a newspaper article on ladies’ night drink specials. From that, he chose five of the 12 featured ladies’ nights randomly and filed his complaints.

The Horner surname may look familiar to Minnesota independents. Steve Horner the brother of Tom Horner, who is a gubernatorial candidate endorsed by the Independence Party.

Tom Horner is, for the most part, not in contact with Steve Horner, he said. The gubernatorial candidate distanced himself from his brother, saying Steve Horner “for many years has been on his own path.”

Steve Horner intends to file complaints in Minnesota again in the future.

“I’ve got a couple of buddies in Minnesota, and they’re going to look out,” he said.