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January 03, 2007

Ladies drink free


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Liz Funk's article about bars that lure underage women with cheap drinks has stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the feminist blogosphere.

Here's an excerpt from Funk's piece...

(WOMENSENEWS)--"Free drinks for ladies all night!"

"No cover for girls before midnight!"

"18+ for ladies, 21+ for guys."

These were the general admission policies for many clubs in New York as the city was getting into the holiday spirit. These policies were advertised on club promotion Web sites or barked at patrons waiting in line to be admitted to the bars and clubs.

But the warmer welcome that young and underage women--those under 21--get at bars is not special to the holidays or New York. Throughout towns and cities across the country bars and clubs often offer discounts to young women.

At Club Paris, for instance--heiress Paris Hilton's nightclub in Orlando, Fla.--young women over 18 pay no cover charge before midnight and are admitted free if they have a college ID. Young men, by contrast, are required to pay a cover charge of $10 before midnight and $5 with a college ID.

While guys their age often get stopped at the nightclub or bar door for lack of convincing proof of age, many young women say they are admitted without a glance or question. Once inside, they are often offered complimentary drinks.

First, off let me say that the US drinking age is ridiculously high. Eighteen is a perfectly reasonable drinking age. That said, letting 18-year-old girls in for free and shutting out their male peers is unfair and possibly unsafe.

It's not as if drink specials for underage girls rank among the world's most pressing public health problems, but they're not exactly a positive, pro-social business practice either.

The intended outcome is attract very young, very drunk girls for the amusement of the older drink-buying male clientele. The vast majority of the time, the result is harmless mutually enjoyable bacchanalia. However, it's not hard to see how this contrived age and intoxication discrepancy could make young women more vulnerable than they would be in a sane world where they could go to bars with guys their own age.

Amanda thinks this article is just another shameful example of rape victim blaming. She reads the article as a veiled swipe at the girls who have the temerity to get drunk in public. Granted, Liz Funk doesn't help her feminist cred by quoting budding misogynist Gary Miller and his screed against college women who enjoy nightclubs.

On the whole, however, I don't see this article as an attempt to stigmatize or blame young women who drink or dance. A liquor license is a big responsibility. In exchange for this very lucrative privilege, proprietors are expected to serve responsibly. That includes obeying the liquor laws--i.e., checking ID and refusing service to visibly intoxicated customers. Bars that don't obey these rules are creating a public nuisance and possible safety hazards. You don't want people falling down stairs, getting into fights, vomiting in storm drains, etc.

Contriving to get one subset of the clientele completely wasted isn't in the best interests of customers or the neighborhood. People who live in club-filled New York neighborhood of Chelsea are sick of people puking on their steps because clubs keep serving wasted kids for show.

I don't see any problem with reasonable alcohol promotions intended to attract certain types of otherwise legal customers. (IMO, the federal laws should be changed to put 18-year-olds in the the legal drinker category, but until then, laws should be upheld in a gender-neutral fashion.)

If club owners want to offer drink discounts or waive cover charges for guests wearing Mets gear, revelers with Halloween costumes, firemen, or women over 21, that's fine. Whether these discounts are "fair" to Yankees fans, EMTs, or 21-year-old guys is really beside the point. Part of running a successful nightclub is engineering the "right" crowd. (That's one of the reasons I hate most nightclubs, but it's how the business works.) However, owners who routinely contrive to get certain customers completely trashed are creating a hazard for their guests and the community and they deserve to have their liquor licenses taken away.

This is big business, and club owners aren't giving young girls free drinks out of the goodness of their hearts. So, allowing owners to flout the law in pursuit of underage female customers sends an ugly message: Male amusement is more important than public safety.

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Comments

Why isn't this straightforward violation of anti-discrimiation laws? Surely a club wouldn't get away with charging blacks a $100 entry fee but letting whites in free!

It's too unofficial. Letting anyone under 21 in is already illegal; it's just not really enforced in New York on account of the law's being batshit crazy.

I think Alon's right. Club owners aren't legally allowed to let anyone under 21 into the clubs, but they sneak the girls in anyway because they are a profitable commodity for the club owners.

Club Paris? In Orlando, Florida?

http://www.clubparis.net/index_orl.cfm

Oh look they have a "teen exlusive" during school holidays. 13-17 year olds only, all virgin drinks. Decadent VIP section with cozy boudoir area perfect for intimate encounters.

Classy! I can't imagine why they aren't attracting more women age 18 and up...

Facilitating date rape as a business strategy? And feminists get in trouble for pointing this out? ( I need a caveat about how some 18 yr olds can drink responsibly, and date rape happens for 21 year olds too. ) But the 18 year olds are the ones least experienced in handling thier booze, whether it's legal or not.

At the club I worked at on New Years they were told to "let anyone in - even if it looks fake." and this is in Victoria - where you get carded everywhere and need two pieces just to get anything anywhere. There were girls bouncing around that looked 16 or 17 and had definitely had too much to drink. I was told to end my shift 10 minutes early because I refused to serve two obviously underage girls who were beyond any sort of reasonable limit.

Talking to the manager the next day his defence was that girls don't come out to the club as often as guys, and the guys complain - so they have to let them have as much fun, and as much for free as possible.

Guys don't go to bars to meet Mets fans, Halloween revelers, or -- sorry -- firemen. They go to bars to meet girls. And because of the intense competition in most club districts, the establishments that don't offer ladies' specials to boost the girl:guy ratio quickly enter a death spiral.

You can't ask or force businesses to act against their sole reason for being, profit. If you want ethical outcomes in public policy, you have to tie those principles to incentives that affect that bottom line. Look at Montreal vs Kyoto.

Considering the club scene boils down to emotional (drinks-for-conversation) prostitution anyway, I'm not sure what the moral handwringing is about.

In most locales (certainly New York City), it is expressly illegal for a liquor licensee to serve any intoxicated patron, whether rail drinks to 19 year-old women or boilermakers to middle-aged dockworkers. Many states have dramshop acts that impose civil liability on bar owners for the activities of their intoxicated patrons.

Agree totally that the U.S. method of handling alcohol is atrocious, though we are not alone. Much of Scandinavia has a similar heritage of prior prohibition, odd current restrictions (brutal taxation, rather than high age limits) and patterns of binge drinking outside those restrictions, such as the booze cruises that open up tax free in the international waters of the Baltic Sea. It seems particularly crazy to have a high alcohol limit in New York City where most 18 year-olds cannot even hallucinate affording car insurance and garage fees and where public transportation is at its best.

The culture of drinking is repulsive and the clubs serve too many drinks to people who get drunk and act irresponsibly and dangerously.

They should be severely sanctioned for selling too much booze. And their discriminatory policies to promote business is illegal regardless.

Pathetic the whole scene.

I'm very wary of any business policy that promotes more alcohol, tobacco or drug use in general. Promotion of more alcohol use in bars will only contribute to more incidents of drunk driving as well as incidents where alcohol clouds judgement resulting in some regrettable sexual choices or incidents.

Other business promotions also disturb me such as the heavy recent use of cartoons in the promotion of pharmaceutical items.

"The culture of drinking is repulsive..."

WoW! Tell us how you really feel.

Well, I enjoy a drink from time to time and certainly do not find it "repulsive". I am also a professional and rarely do the club thing at my advanced age of slightly over 30!! But I do enjoy hitting the upscales lounges and clubs in Chicago from time to time and doing it up VIP style with bottle service, etc. But that being said, I do tend to agree that the whole club culture is pretty, um, lame. (I generally prefer the corner bar, beer and a shot kind of joint.)

While it's fun to go out and party with your friends, I know that myself and my friends do not want to hang out with sub 25 yo people in general, as they are pretty immature and tend to overact in bars and clubs. And the young girls are the worst! While they are great to look at, there are idiots when they are drunk. It's like spring break. Very annoying.

But remember this, when we were under 21, we either got into bars underage or damn sure tried. It's like a rite of passage. And while I think the whole thing is an over-reaction to something that has been going on for years, I definitely see the point-of-view.

"The culture of drinking is repulsive..."

I'll drink to that!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

I can't imagine having to wait until turning 21 before I could learn how incredibly lame the bar scene is. It would be that much more frustrating, I imagine. I grew a beard when I was 18 to help me get into bars -- and it worked.

Well, I enjoy a drink from time to time and certainly do not find it "repulsive". I am also a professional and rarely do the club thing at my advanced age of slightly over 30!! But I do enjoy hitting the upscales lounges and clubs in Chicago from time to time and doing it up VIP style with bottle service, etc. But that being said, I do tend to agree that the whole club culture is pretty, um, lame. (I generally prefer the corner bar, beer and a shot kind of joint.)

While it's fun to go out and party with your friends, I know that myself and my friends do not want to hang out with sub 25 yo people in general, as they are pretty immature and tend to overact in bars and clubs. And the young girls are the worst! While they are great to look at, there are idiots when they are drunk. It's like spring break. Very annoying.

I think it depends on the person, but I think going to clubs to meet women in general is a bad way to meet someone you actually want to have a relationship with, and I'm not sure if clubs simply offer a venue to meet someone without that expectation.
I think excessive drinking just magnifies that point. Really, are you going to really have a serious relationship with a girl who goes out all the time drinking, getting sick and hooking up with random guys? Or a guy who does it for that matter? I think that's what she is referencing, not that there is anything inherintly wrong with clubs/bars in general, just that the type of intersexual discourse that occurs isn't productive in any way - just reproductive.

On topic, it's always irritated me that women who were underage not only got a free pass in (where most guys had to know the bouncer to have that kind of availability), they get to drink for free as well. I think if a bar has to focus on an illegal ploy to lure customers, a ploy which not only jeapordizes the young woman by putting her in a less than reasonable condition, but to the men who don't normally card the women they talk to at the bar, presenting them with the possibility of being arrested of statutory rape if their one night stand ends up being a junior down at the local high school.

As to someones point that "if they didn't do it, girls wouldn't come, and neither would guys". That's not true. If you make the environment fun, people will come. It's a simple as that. If they equally enforce the laws at all the bars, then there should be no net advantage one bar would have over another regarding clientele.

The idea that "women don't like to go out unless they get a free pass and free drinks" is also absurd. Young people in general like to go out and party, male or female. It's not like that won't happen if they aren't offering specials to young 18 year olds (or younger for that matter).

In most locales (certainly New York City), it is expressly illegal for a liquor licensee to serve any intoxicated patron, whether rail drinks to 19 year-old women or boilermakers to middle-aged dockworkers.

Here in Victoria/Vancouver we're told not to serve to anyone who looks "over done". The problem with this is that you never really know when someone is "over done". I've just started my job at the bar, but I've already been yelled at by at least 5 different guys saying "I'm not even that drunk!"... So then it has to start involving the bouncers and it ends up getting messy when really - they may not have been that drunk. The girls dont' get so upset, and they think I'm stupid... they end up sending one of their friends to get them something.

And the young girls are the worst! While they are great to look at, there are idiots when they are drunk. It's like spring break. Very annoying.

I hate to be sexist to my own sex, but this is the exact reason why I stop serving to 19 year old girls before I stop serving to the 25 year old guys. The guys are generally too embarassed to act like they can't hold their alcohol, where as the girls find it's an excuse to take their clothes off or start screaming about everything and anything.

The idea that "women don't like to go out unless they get a free pass and free drinks" is also absurd. Young people in general like to go out and party, male or female. It's not like that won't happen if they aren't offering specials to young 18 year olds (or younger for that matter).

It's not so absurd. My friends and I, last semester, would only go out if it was "lady's night"... We would stay in and hang out at different houses in differnet groups. So when we do go out there is a group of about 25 girls aged 19 - 27 that hit one bar, all because of "lady's night". Its not that the bars aren't fun, its that staying at home is just as fun because we're rarely, if ever, going out to meet guys/girls.

"Bottle service" is the bane of nightlife. The bottles are at least as overpriced, per unit of ethanol, as the mixed drinks you might order instead. I don't mind paying a little extra for bartending skills and attentive service, but "bottle service" is an excuse to do away with most of what adds value to drinking in a club.

Worse, you have to agree on a flavor of liquor that will please everyone at the table--which means that 9 times out of 10, you'll end up with an overpriced bottle of vodka. Ughhh.

Of course, since the bottles are so damned expensive there's pressure to go in with your friends at a bottle service establishment instead of ordering your own drinks .

"Bottle service" is the bane of nightlife. The bottles are at least as overpriced, per unit of ethanol, as the mixed drinks you might order instead. I don't mind paying a little extra for bartending skills and attentive service, but "bottle service" is an excuse to do away with most of what adds value to drinking in a club."


I hear what you are saying, but with the bottle service, you also get VIP treatment, i.e. your own host and server as well as prime seating. Satisfying all tastes is sometimes hard, but we decide on all that before we even go. Since you have to call ahead, it is easier to have that all settled. Also, I have never had a problem getting a case of beer in place of a bottle of liquour for the same price. All in all, I tend to like the VIP service. It is also a MUST when entertaining clients, as I must do from time to time.


"I think that's what she is referencing, not that there is anything inherintly wrong with clubs/bars in general, just that the type of intersexual discourse that occurs isn't productive in any way - just reproductive."

I tend to agree with the Count. Although I did meet my wife in a bar (thru a mutual friend), most times you are only going for the hookup and not a relationship. Especially if you are in your mid-twenties and the other person in 18-21 yo.

>but I think going to clubs to meet women in general is a bad way to meet someone you actually want to have a relationship with

Well, yeah, but I don't think most clubbers are looking for someone who affirms their deeply held moral values. I think people who go to clubs might well be interested in escaping, for an evening, their deeply held moral values....

"Well, yeah, but I don't think most clubbers are looking for someone who affirms their deeply held moral values. I think people who go to clubs might well be interested in escaping, for an evening, their deeply held moral values...."


Very solid point. Couldn't agree more.

""Bottle service" is the bane of nightlife. The bottles are at least as overpriced, per unit of ethanol, as the mixed drinks you might order instead. I don't mind paying a little extra for bartending skills and attentive service, but "bottle service" is an excuse to do away with most of what adds value to drinking in a club."

One of the main reasons I don`t go out anymore has to do highly with the fact that one martini will cost $5. ...When I could spend $40 on the actual alcohol and make many at home. I used to think the bartending skills were worth it, until I found out how easy it is to become a bartender, there is a list behind the bar of what you put into each drink, the skill basically invovles reading and knowing how to pour.

The 'club' scene, unfortunately, is a bit of a product of what will sell. I don't think most women would just not go out if there were no ladies nights at all, but if its cheap drinks verses not cheap drinks, I'm generally inclined to pick the cheap ones, too. Because of the brokeness, you know...and I'm not even the type to try to get guys to buy me drinks (though I'll accept it if offered, but I tend to try to buy one later). Clubs aren't so much trying to attract girls like me, though, I suppose.

Personally, since I moved out of Chicago proper and started going to suburban 'dives' I've been way happier with the whole thing. The carding policy can be just as conditional but it tends to be 'oh, that's Joe's brother, they're cool' rather than 'let the drunk girls in, they're hot if underage'. Which is much friendlier.

Lindsay, I think you're right that club owners and promoters exploit women. I wouldn't have had a problem with an article that focused on that issue. But that wasn't Liz Funk's article. To wit, the title is "Women sidle up to barroom risks." Not "club owners exploit women" or anything like that -- no, it's women who put themselves in danger. That's the same mentality that rape apologists use -- how can you entirely blame the rapist when the woman was there, drinking, dressed like that? That's why I called bullshit on Liz.

She even brings up Jennifer Moore as an example of what can go wrong when women go out and drink. The implication is, "Look at Jennifer, who got herself killed."

Nowhere in the article does she mention that men are at a far greater risk of being violently assaulted in public. Nowhere does she mention that women are far more likely to be raped by someone they know, in their own home or in their attacker's home, than in a club or by a stranger. She even concludes her article with:

"But even with laws and initiatives and special public precautions in place, Quinn acknowledged that young people "who go out at night remain at risk until they get back home." "

Actually, young people who go out at night are more likely to be victimized at home than in the clubs. But it's more along the lines of the dominant narrative to tell women again and again that we should be fearful. And that if we aren't fearful, we're courting our own assaults or murders.

I agree that Liz Funk has a bad attitude.

I'm not sure whether it's relevant that women are at greater risk of being assaulted at home than at a club. The overarching point is valid: Stranger rape is very rare compared to acquaintance rape or rape within intimate relationships.

However, even if homes and clubs were equally dangerous, you'd still expect more rapes to happen at home because people spend more time there.

The real question is whether underage drinking and ridiculous ladies' night specials are increasing the risk compared to more reasonable serving policies.

Liz Funk is twisted, so she implicitly blames the girls for getting raped. Real feminists should ask whether club owners are setting up the equivalent of a canned hunt. Word gets 'round when you offer easy prey. Sickos like Dick Cheney and would-be date rapists pay top dollar for the opportunity to predate recreationally. Maybe these clubs are creating an attractive nuisance for the city's rapists.

If it's true that underage drinking and excessive ladies' night specials are increasing the risk of stranger rape on the streets of Manhattan, that's something feminists need to talk about without blaming the victims.

In theory, the thesis that you state here is not a bad one for an article, if sort of "No duh". But that's only Funk's ostensible thesis. Her article was deliberately written as a defense of Gary Miller, who she think was unfairly maligned for writing an article that can be summed up as, "You girls at the club think you're hot shit, but I'll bet you don't know that guys want to FUCK you, you silly fools." That he felt he was imparting wisdom on women who go to clubs was offensive enough, that he trotted out stereotypes made it worse.

Funk picks up where he left off, and her main point appears to be, "Going to a club makes you a stupid slut." Adding rape to the end of it made what was merely annoyingly sexist downright sexist, because it fed right into the cultural framing of rapists as, like I said in my other post, patriarchal vigilantes, doling out punishment to women who misbehave.

If Funk didn't have a bug up her ass about casting judgment on women who are basically going out for fun, it would be easier to get away with the idea that she's just warning you. Or even an "expose" on something that basically everyone knows about, which is the ladies night goofiness. But that's just not case. And if you're angry that women are sluts, invoking rapists against them sounds basically like you're siding with the rapists to a degree---it sucks that you have to learn not to be a slut this way, but oh well.

Agreed, the ostensible thesis is harmless enough. But the underlying assumptions and stereotypes she's promoting are the ones I have quarrel with. The funny thing is that like Steve Gilliard reminded me, most people really don't club hop to get laid. The want to drink and dance. But even if they did, the threat of rape shouldn't be used as a tool of moral enforcement.

Like I told Liz in my email, her article reminded me of reading someone more old-fashioned hand-wring about the grave dangers of women going unescorted to school and the grocery store. We read that and we immediately realize that rape is a stand-in for the hand-wringer's moral judgments of rebellious women.

Real feminists should ask whether club owners are setting up the equivalent of a canned hunt. Word gets 'round when you offer easy prey. Sickos like Dick Cheney and would-be date rapists pay top dollar for the opportunity to predate recreationally. Maybe these clubs are creating an attractive nuisance for the city's rapists.

I think that's a fair question and the relevant follow-up, information-seeking question is, "If men are paying more in clubs, what do they expect to get out of it?" I think the answer is that the vast majority want ogle women, drink, hang out with the friends, and dance. A few have unrealistic expectations of getting laid. But I would say that ogling is the main draw.

That said, I don't think real feminists have much they can say to that except to point out that as long as women are considered to oglees of society, then ladies night will be the standard. What's especially interesting to me is that the dirty little secret of it is that women ogle right back, but since we don't admit that men are oglees, the myth continues.

Now, do men go to clubs to rape women? I don't think so. I think in that age group, would-be rapists tend to flock to masculine group situations like sports teams and fraternities, where they can throw their own parties and rape in safer situations. In fact, one reason that club-hopping was so popular amongst some women I knew in college was precisely that you could party for cheap,but in public, where it was a lot harder for some drunk ass frat boy to corner you and rape you.

The likelihood that a behavior increases your real life possibility of getting raped is relevant, because the fact that the criticized behavior is assessed as a rape risk while it's not really is more evidence that the person invoking rape is doing so in order to threaten women into a certain mode of behavior.

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