by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I'd like to respond to your post on "Ladies Nights," specifically your comment "[w]hat if a club owner wanted to attract more white patrons by offering them a special discount?"

The situation is inherently different.  The goal of ladies nights is not really to attract more female customers, but to attract more male customers (who will pay full price) looking to go to bars with more female customers (for whom they will buy full-priced drinks).  While we would rightly disapprove of a bar owner's catering to those who want to be around more (or exclusively) white people, I have no objection to proprietors catering to those men who are looking for a favorable female:male ratio.

Obviously the ultimate goal of letting ladies drink for less is to lure men who will pay more, and that men as a whole will benefit from having more potential dates at the bar. Thus, Ladies Night seems like a win-win-win for all parties involved - women, men, and the club owners. But it also seems like the legal standing is dubious prima facie; New York law clearly states that "different prices for the same service is gender discrimination." In my understanding, the law is less interested in intentions and means-to-ends than whether a standard is applied equally to everyone. (For a more detailed look at how New York and various other states have addressed the legality of Ladies Night, go here.)

I don't think adding race into the mix is totally a red herring. What if a club believed that attracting more white women would bring in more men (regardless of race) to their establishment, so it held a "White Ladies Night" with discounted drinks based on race? Non-white women could still come, and buy drinks, but just at a different price, and many of them would still get free drinks from all the extra men attracted to the club (presuming that not all of the men were only interested in white women).  A counterargument could be that many non-white women lose out in the situation, thus breaking the win-win-win arrangement. But normal Ladies Night also have individuals who don't benefit: men with girlfriends or wives, gay men, or tag-along men not looking to pick up anyone.

Anyway, bottom line: Isn't there another way that clubs could attract more women, and thus men, without using such a simplistic and ethically ambiguous standard as gender? For instance, what if clubs put a special discount on certain kinds of drinks that women, on average, primarily drink? Few men will want to openly consume cosmos, apple martinis, or margaritas, particularly if they're displayed in a colorful and ornate fashion. (But of course they aren't barred from doing so if they don't adhere to stereotypes or just really want that discount.) A Dish reader has another suggestion:

The bars got it all wrong by offering discounts to women in order to lure them. The problem is a disparity between the genders in attendance. Why not offer half price on the second drink to those who are buying for another regardless of gender?  This should up attendance.

Perhaps, although friends could just buy drinks back and forth. Any other nudge-like ideas?

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