Many scoff at N.J. ruling over 'ladies' nights'
Fri Jun 4, 6:11 AM ET
By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
New Jersey's top civil rights official ruled this week that offering discounts on "ladies' nights" is unlawful because it discriminates against men.
And now, everyone from the governor to women's rights activists is talking back. Their response: It's not that serious.
"We're shaking our heads in disbelief," Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, said Thursday. "Discrimination is such a serious issue, and it should not ever be taken lightly. But this is not discrimination. Ladies' night doesn't fit into that category."
The director of New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights, Frank Vespa-Papaleo, ruled Tuesday that the Coastline, a Cherry Hill restaurant and bar, violated the state's anti-discrimination law with its ladies-only promotion.
The decision was in response to a complaint filed in June 1998 by David Gillespie. He claimed he was the victim of bias when the restaurant allowed women free admission and discounted drinks while men had to pay $5 to get in and full price to imbibe.
Colleen Ready, an attorney for the Coastline, said she was uncertain whether the restaurant's owner would appeal. The ruling has the force of law, so other bars and businesses are concerned it could apply to them. Other states are mixed, the ruling points out. Judges in Pennsylvania and Iowa have agreed that such events are illegal, while Illinois and Washington state courts say they're OK as promotions to attract customers.
"This is bureaucratic nonsense," New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey said in a written statement. "It is an overreaction that reflects a complete lack of common sense and good judgment."
Others said that when it comes to bias, there are higher priorities.
"If women could now get equal pay for equal work, then they could afford the cover charges," said Deborah Jacobs of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
Added Rita Haley, president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women: "I am concerned that he is looking for discrimination in all the wrong places."