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January 03, 2007

Ladies drink free


a cosmopolitan trinity, originally uploaded by MatthewA.

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

The shocking thing about the calculated underage drinking policies at New York City clubs is that everybody knows about them and nobody does anything, least of all the moral busybodies who are ostensibly so concerned about women's welfare. (I'm a little obsessive about reasonable laws being openly disregarded by a privileged minority. It's not just unfair, it's undemocratic. The People made the law and some assholes decide they don't care about democracy, they're just going to do whatever they want because they're more important than the rest of us. I want to scream, BUT IT'S THE LAW, MOTHERFUCKER, YOU CAN'T JUST DO THAT!")

I don't want to defend Funk. Anyone who quotes Gary Miller has an unseemly agenda. I certainly don't think it's productive to harp on the dangers of drinking too much at nightclubs, or wring our hands about how perilous it is is to knock back a few beers at Ladies Night. If that's our worst public health problem, we're golden.

To the extent that there's a problem, there's a simple solution: Enforcement of existing laws.

It bugs me that male pleasure and profit trump the public good. Illegal ladies nights aren't for the benefit of the girls. If a women's center or a lesbian bar was serving cocktails to teens 18 and under, you know they'd get shut down, ex post haste. Whereas, if a trendy nightclub that caters to 30-something male stockbrokers and lawyers with money to burn does it, the liquor control authorities will look the other way. At least they'll ignore the double standard until something goes terribly wrong, and then they'll jump on all the wrong solutions: Slut-shaming editorials, video cameras in bars (I'm not kidding, they're really proposing this cockeyed measure), banning Ladies Nights altogether, etc.

I think you're right about the harmless ogling factor. For the vast majority of people, Ladies Nights are harmless. Most guys aren't rapists, and most club-goers aren't even calculating seducers. They just want to go to a club with lots of pretty young girls.

If Ladies Nights are run responsibly, then there's no problem. I just object to the cynical attempts to encourage underage drinking and the calculated ploys to get really young kids totally smashed. If it's not the guys at the club, it's the muggers who might be waiting outside, knowing that this particular club serves its guests until they can barely stand.

One good thing about LN discounts is that they encourage large groups of young women to go out together, which is probably good for personal safety and independence.

I think there is a point to be made that the reason that underage drinking laws are selectively enforced is to uphold male and class privilege. I just think that was a minor point inside Funk's article that was about other things. Bringing rape into it basically tanks the entire discussion, to boot, because it does have that air about it of punishment to women for transgressing sexual modesty boundaries. In fact, I'd bet $20 that an underage girl is probably safer from rape around older men than guys her own age, because statistically speaking, offenders tend to be teenaged at the same rate that victims are.

Your thesis is interesting. It's a shame you didn't write the article. You managed to extract the one interesting point that was but a minor point in Funk's slut-shaming and rape-threatening travesty.

Lots of interesting things to discuss!

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.

Ok, let me restate that. I think it's too general to say you need a ladies night to draw customers, and is only necessary in siutations where you are drawing people who wouldn't normally have the money to spend on something like drinking and club fees. I think it's reasonable for the 18-22 crowd who is paying for their college themselves, however, it's not so much for slightly older people who have money to spend, mainly because they are employed. I also think it probably depends on what area you live in. In D.C. and I'm sure in New York as well, there are lots of clubs and bars - none of which need to have a ladies night to get people into them. Most young professional people 22+ in major cities have money to spend, so the necessity for someone to plan a night out isn't so much based on $2-3 dollar drink specials, or whether you do or don't pay the $5-$10 dollar cover charge. Smaller towns usually draw the same crowd every night anyways, and only compete with 1-2 bars locally for the same clientele. If in fact they institue a ladies night in order to pull customers from another bar, there is nothing preventing the other bars from doing so as well - thus negating any advantage they would have had. The reason they do it is to attract single men. The more availability of men the more money they make. They can afford to take the hit on the cover fees and free drinks when they are attracting more men. Men tend to drink more and therefore spend more money thus are more attractive customers to a bar from a money making standpoint. Still, that doesn't justify allowing women under 21 into a bar/club. I would argue that if you made the atmosphere of the bar/club fun, and didn't have a ladies night, you would net as good or better results. I've never known anyone throughout my 20's who would rather stay at home on any night of the week if they knew of a cool spot to go hang out. I think that's more dependant on the inviduals involved. Whether it was goth night down at an alt bar, bubble party down at the raid, or cigars down at the trendy bar, each attracted a different brand of clientele, and none of which was dependant on free drinks or fees for women.

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.

Access to women. Ogling is part of it, but I think just about every guy goes to bars and clubs to meet women with the hope of getting laid. A majority of guys would rather stay home and forget they don't know how to dance, which many don't. Men don't like to have to spend $200 on jeans and $100 on shirts just to go out. Drinking at pubs and at home is also more enjoyable since you can watch what you want, wear what you want, and drink as much as you want without getting pulled over for arrest at the end of the night. Women are the only reason men goto clubs in the end, there is really no other reason to go. The necessity to goto clubs for men is also more
dependant on their current social network. Men who aren't very socially networked would have more of a reason to attend clubs more often than men who aren't, since you have a better friend base to work through to meet others in a non-club atmosphere.
Clubs make it much easier for men to meet women than would otherwise be available to a non socialially networked person.
Women by nature are more social so tend to have less issue creating networks than men, so I think it's probably why so many men are drawn to clubs. They don't have to socialize with other men to meet women, and don't have to compete with friends if they find someone attractive. It's probably the downside of our culture that men aren't taught to be more social and taught how to develope significant social networks, and we suffer for it in the long run.

Ogling is part of it, but I think just about every guy goes to bars and clubs to meet women with the hope of getting laid

I'm sure he hopes to find a stack of 100s in the bathroom, too, but he doesn't expect it.

Depends on the location and the situation. For some they already have a stack of 100's in their wallet, and it's a non-issue if the club caters to that sort of environment.

In fact, I'd bet $20 that an underage girl is probably safer from rape around older men than guys her own age, because statistically speaking, offenders tend to be teenaged at the same rate that victims are.

I'm not sure about it. The only thing I have is age data, which suggests that the percentage of rape victims who're under 20 in the US is lower than the percentage of rapists who're under 20.

On the other hand, it may be explained wholly by the paucity of under-15 rapists.

It really doesn't matter what your personal opinions of ladies'night are.The only opinions that really count are that of the courts and, as of recently, in the cases of two Denver nightclubs, heard on two separate days in front of two separate Denver County judges,it was ruled that my civil rights had been violated on the basis of my gender and I was therefore awarded monetary damages.And now that I have the precedent of the county court on my side,it's off to district court where the really big bucks lie. Why am I doing this? Because I can.The law is on my side.It lets all the poor "oppressed and disadvantaged" groups like gays,women,people of color fully understand that what's good for the goose is good for the gander and they don't seem to like that.That's why ladies'night is one of the hottest issues out there...it shines the light of hypocrisy on millions.Steve Horner from stevehornerbooks.com

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