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A Big Oast for Ladies Nights

In between slinging beers for his Friday happy hour crowd, Mugshots assistant manager Grant Deslauriers slams New Jersey.

Specifically, the state's recent ruling that bans women's discounts -- "ladies night" -- because the time-tested practice discriminates against men.

"I think it's ridiculous," Deslauriers says, taking orders from men in caps and cowboy hats. "I don't understand why they would make it illegal. [Ladies night] does guys a favor. Ladies come in and drink, and guys come in for the ladies. It's good business."

Or at least better business than hosting "men night." More than a year ago, Mugshots held a men night once a week -- with 25-cent drafts -- to lure fellas from the surrounding Altamonte Springs area.

It lasted maybe a month, Deslauriers says with a shrug.

"It didn't really catch on," he says. At some places, "men's night could be popular, but you would have a lot more bar fights and a lot more [drunken- driving] arrests. Guys would come to drink 50 beers."

So Mugshots switched to ladies night and has stuck with the near-universal practice ever since.

Well, almost universal. As of last week, thanks to a decision by New Jersey's civil-rights agency, women in the Garden State are out of luck. Same goes for Pennsylvania and Iowa, where judges have ruled similar events are illegal.

But Central Florida bar owners, lawyers and patrons say banning ladies night here just won't happen.

"I don't see it," says Mark NeJame, an Orlando attorney with a stake in the downtown club Tabu, which offers specials for women. "I don't see it. I just think that most people think that [banning ladies night] is silly."

He argues that events such as ladies night don't keep anyone out.

"It doesn't increase the price for men, it just gives women more incentives on those days," he says. He compared the practice to holding a sale on women's shampoo but keeping men's shampoo at the same price. "No men are being punished as a result of these policies."

It's a mentality shared by officials in at least two other states. Courts in Illinois and Washington state have said that ladies nights are permissible because they do not discriminate against men but rather encourage women to attend.

Don't tell it to the men waiting in line at Tabu. Occasionally, there's some grumbling at the door, particularly from those under 21, who pay the highest admission. But even at Smokey Bones, a male-dominated sports bar, no one seemed bothered by the concept of ladies night.

"I couldn't care less," says film student Zac Kidwell, 25.

"We need smoking back in the bars," echoed his friend Eric Mroczkowski, 23. "We need to get back to the real issues."

Women didn't seem fazed by the privilege -- or the grumbling outside Tabu.

Neither Emily Dougherty, 22, nor Andrea Lane, 25, worries about ladies night disappearing. The two women, fresh from serving sushi at Ichiban downtown, say ladies night is here to stay.

"It's everywhere," says Dougherty, drink in hand.

"It brings in a lot of business," adds Lane. "I don't think it's discriminatory, it's just used so both men and women can come party."

Copyright © 2004, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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