- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

New Jersey’s top civil rights official has barred taverns in the state from offering “Ladies’ Night” promotions, saying discounted drinks and other financial incentives for women discriminate against men.

However, bar owners counter that male patrons have been the primary beneficiaries of Ladies’ Night price breaks.

In his ruling Tuesday, J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, concurred with a male patron at a restaurant/nightclub in Cherry Hill, who charged that it was unfair that on Ladies’ Nights on Wednesdays, women got into the club free and could buy drinks for $1.50, while men paid a $5 cover charge and paid $3 to $5 for drinks.

But Chris Mourtos, owner of the Coastline Restaurant, the club in question, belittled the complaint raised by the former patron, David R. Gillespie, noting it was the only complaint he received about Ladies Night during the 26 years he has been in business.

“Seventy percent of the people who showed up at the club on Ladies’ Night were men,” Mr. Mourtos said.

He said men frequently were the beneficiaries of $1.50 drinks on Ladies’ Night. A man would approach a female patron, introduce himself, give her $1.50 and ask her to buy him a drink.

“The girls do all the buying” on Ladies’ Night, Mr. Mourtos said.

The Coastline and other New Jersey nightclubs argued that Ladies’ Nights are a legitimate promotion, designed to bring more women to the establishments and help members of the opposite sex meet.

But Mr. Vespa-Papaleo rejected these arguments and ruled that commercial interests do not override the “important social policy objectives of eradicating discrimination.”

The new state order specifically addressed the Coastline, but it carries the authority of a court decision and applies statewide.

Mr. Vespa-Papaleo said the Coastline’s policy of “offering gender-based discounts at its restaurant on ‘Ladies’ Night’ is an unlawful discrimination, and that its denial of those discounts to the complainant [Mr. Gillespie] because he is a male violated the [New Jersey] Law Against Discrimination, as a matter of law.”

Dino Mantzas, attorney for Mr. Mourtos, called the civil rights director’s decision shortsighted and said he plans to appeal it to the appellate division of the New Jersey Superior Court.

Mr. Mourtos said this is “another example of all the bureaucracy” that permeates the New Jersey state government.

Mr. Gillespie first filed his complaint about Ladies’ Night at the Coastline Restaurant with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights on June 22, 1998, five days after he became a patron of the club and found the Ladies’ Night price disparities.

Mr. Vespa-Papaleo’s order of June 1 essentially upheld one issued earlier by an administrative law judge.

Mr. Mourtos said he wonders how long it will be before an adult challenges the low-priced meals he offers at his restaurant for children and senior citizens.

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