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March 19, 2007 | by  | in Features |
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Pink Drinks

Happy hour is especially happy for ladies on Wednesday nights at The Establishment, and Thursday nights at Blend. This is because the drinks are free-flowing, and the drinks are free. Girls turn up for free drinks. Guys turn up for free girls.

“It’s a really great night,” says Jono, Manager of Blend Bar on Wakefield Street. Blend provides free champagne and cocktail punch to women on Thursday nights. “There are lots of female students, lots of male businessmen, and everyone gets up and dances and has a great time.” Asked why the free drinks are only for the girls, Jono says it is simply business: “The girls are like a rent-a-crowd. They come for the free drinks, and the guys stay around for the atmosphere.”

While a win-win situation for some, providing free drinks to one gender and not the other is quite possibly illegal. Senior Lecturer at the Victoria University School of Law, Claudia Geiringer, says: “It’s hard to see, when looking at the Human Rights Act, whether anything there suggests this practice is not unlawful.” Providing goods and services at a favourable rate to a class of persons named under the 1993 Act is prohibited. It is discrimination.

Asked what is wrong with discrimination, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission, which administers the act, is careful not to give a blanket answer. “Discrimination in a broad sense happens all the time,” she says, “and plenty of it is justified: discrimination in the provision of health services, for example.” She goes on to note that there is no problem with discrimination in private life. So yes, once she is coaxed to your flat warming, you can ply that girl (and no one else) with free drinks without worrying that it is a crime against humanity.

But as soon as you enter the public realm as defined by the Act – by, say, operating a bar – it becomes a different story. “The Act is there to prevent unfair disadvantage to certain named groups,” continues the spokesperson. “It came about to protect against the classic cases of discrimination – homophobia, racism and the like – but of course there are much more subtle cases as well.”

The discrimination here is pretty easy to identify. Girls get free drinks, guys have to pay money. So, any old bloke could rock up to the Human Rights Commission and claim he is being discriminated against. While the Commission “does not investigate disputes,” says its spokesman, it would look into the situation and may seek some sort of dispute resolution. A warning to all the zealous law students out there however: playing with this human rights stuff might sound like fun, but it probably won’t be helping your love life so much.

Stu, General Manager of The Establishment on Courtney Place, chooses not to comment on the Human Rights Act itself, but certainly doesn’t think giving free champagne to girls is favouring them unfairly. “Officially, [Wednesday] is ladies’ night,” he says, “but obviously we don’t discourage guys from being there. In fact, we encourage it,” and with that, he rattles off half a dozen specials that students, male, female, or miscellaneous, can take advantage of every Wednesday. “Let’s face it,” continues Stu, “if you are a gentlemen out on the town and you see a pub full of females, naturally, you’re gonna go there. It’s good for both.”

Gerard Vaughan, Chief Executive of the Alcohol Advisory Board (ALAC) disagrees. “I would suggest premises offering free drinks may be laying themselves open to the possibility of prosecution under the Sale of Liquor Act for promoting excessive consumption,” he says. “There is a national protocol surrounding alcohol promotions on licensed premises which sets out what is acceptable and unacceptable. Although this is a guideline only, and the decision of what is acceptable, or unacceptable, will in the end be decided by the courts, the protocol explicitly lists ‘free drinks to women’ as an unacceptable practice.” Noting the particular vulnerability of young women, Vaughan continues, “Bar staff will have to be particularly vigilant to ensure no-one gets drunk and suffers alcohol-related harm.”

A spokesperson for the Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) acknowledges that ladies’ night promotions “go on from time to time,” and agrees with ALAC that the onus is on bar owners to make sure their promotions are safe. HANZ members, he says, are encouraged always to work within the bounds of the law, and will not encourage patrons to become intoxicated, but he sympathises with bars in a highly competitive market that are “just trying something a bit different to advance their business.”

There is a far bigger question to be asked here than “why don’t I get free champagne?” If you can choose to buy your significant other a drink without shouting everyone else in the bar, because it, well, advances your business, why do we not afford businesses the same opportunity to advance theirs? It is certainly true that the term “pub” is a shortening of the old phrase “public house,” and there may be a sense of community ownership of some drinking establishments, but if individuals are freely engaging in free champagne, are we really justified in trying to stop them?

The substantive qualms of ALAC probably carry more weight here than an airy-fairy notion of discrimination. After all, it is the harm that results from discrimination which justifies its prohibition. Bar owners who put their patrons in danger should be stopped, and most are eager to work to this end. “We make sure we provide free food to everyone on Thursdays,” says Jono of Blend. “If we got told we had to stop ladies’ night, of course we would stop. But it’d be a shame, because everyone, male and female, has a good time.”

Bar owners were pretty open and honest when interviewed. They all maintained that no one was being harmed by their promotions, and the fact that no complaints have to date been brought to them or the Human Rights Commission pretty well bears this out.

If you, the female reader, are thinking of heading out this week to take advantage of the free champagne offered to you, go ahead. Just make sure no one is taking advantage of you. Be aware that bars consider you a walking billboard. Free drinks for girls are designed to get girls into bars, for where they go, guys will invariably follow. “You know what girls are like,” says Jono. “The best advertising is word of mouth.” The more female mouths you have in your bar, the more there are available for talking to your male clientele and for doing whatever else it is you do with mouths in bars.

If you, the male reader, are feeling hard done by, bewailing your lost opportunity is probably valid. But it is also true that the female readers would be losing an opportunity if the free champagne stops flowing. Before you go admonishing the squads of spaghetti-strapped sippers enjoying their complimentaries at The Establishment and Blend, you should probably also know that the student discounts you yourself are enjoying that night might not be reconciled so easily with the Human Rights Act, either.

And, in the meantime, if you really want your belly filled with free bubbly, Jono promises to serve you on Thursday nights at Blend. “Just make sure you are wearing a skirt,” he says.

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  1. Jenn says:

    Ug! I hate the concept of “ladies nights” with free drinks for girls. apart from the whole reverse sexism argument its a dangerous situation for the women that attend… girls getting too drunk, guys there purely (as the article admits) to be there for the “free” drunk girls. drunk girls + guys on the prowl = possiblilty of rape, unwanted sexual encounters. and dont get me started on the fact that women are being treated like objects to “advertise” the bar, to pull the male punters who can drink more (and pay for it). its unsafe and unfair both ways. not to mention that Jono’s comments are unbelievably sexist.

    sorry to sound like a party pooper, but im sick and tired of the culture of bars down courtney place where its okay to harass women and expect that because you’re drunk you will be easy. rape and sexual harassment are NOT okay, whether you’re drunk or sober. ladies nights only exacerbate the situation – and this article only proves that their real purpose is to get women drunk for the guys.

  2. Bob Marley says:

    Jenn? What a pitty you feel that way. First of all its not ok to haress women or guys. full stop. To simply blame bars on courtenay place and object to an old age promotion is simply pathetic. Girls and guys get good deals in order to increase business. maybe once you get a job and want to pay off ya loan you might understand. Actually buy ya own business and see how you go.
    Frankly if girls felt the way you do they wouldn’t pack out these bars now would they. Are bars to blame? I dont know. Let ya feet do the walking if girls thought it was a pick up only they wouldn’t go. Seems that you can now vote? fuck knows why!!!. Jenn can’t you make up ya mind. Don’t get drunk. Don’t have fun! fuck off back to ya books and batteries

  3. Holden Iscariot says:

    “Bob”, I think you just validated everything Jenn said.

    And she said it well.

    H.I.

  4. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    The seriousness of both ‘rape’ and ‘sexual harassement’ in our
    modern society has become exaggerated by feminists and their political sympathizers. Moreover the scope of both terms has been conveniently wided to include any type of social interaction/behaviour which is considered to demean women.
    There are two hypocracies at work here: (1) feminists gain and enlarge the scope of their (considerable) power by promoting this type of political and discourse in the name of ‘the weak’ and (2) the only substantive crime entailed in either rape or harassement is the crime of mistreating an ‘identifiable’ social group which has been
    persecuted. There’s no honour in claiming the mantle of ‘mistreated group’ when, in effect, this luxury status is granted only to groups which are noisy enough to insist on it. It’s a pity that Ms. Geiringer didn’t express outright Jenn’s mantra — at least the readers would then know Ms. Geiringer’s real polity.

    Adrain Leverkuhn

  5. Laura McQuillan says:

    Yeah coz rape isn’t a bad thing, it’s just feminists manipulating our minds…

  6. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    Well …. yes. There’s quite a bit to say about this.
    I think feminists call it ‘framing the issue’.

    best,
    Adrian Leverkuhn

  7. Laura McQuillan says:

    Framing the issue that… rape isn’t rape if you’re not a feminist?

  8. “Force-feeding a defenceless woman your dick should be applauded for the philanthropic spirit in which it is given.

    Kinds regards for the coming year,
    Adrian Leverkuhn”

  9. Adrian Leverkuhn is either fakeposting or makes his crust as a garbage man. Either way, he sucks.

  10. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    I applaud the last comment about philanthroic fellatio but sadly it wasn’t posted by me (Adrian Leverkuhn). To Laura I would say that rape encompasses a spectrum of various aggressive sexual behaviours which probably should not be lumped into the same category — and perhaps some of them should not even be punished. To call them all ‘rape’ is a rhetorical scheme — given the odious history of the term.

    regards, Jeanne Scott

  11. Mar Lundy says:

    Many women admit to desiring rape.

    Make yo your bloody minds

  12. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    Thank ever so dearly for the comic relief — indeed this thread was getting pretty dire. best, Jeanne

  13. hombre says:

    Mar Lundy: “Many women admit to desiring rape.”

    Um there is a big difference between fantasy and reality…

  14. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    Gee — thanks for spoiling Mar Lundy’s light-hearted denouement. Jeanne

  15. Laura McQuillan says:

    Could you elaborate on the following:
    Unlawful sexual connection
    Statutory rape
    Rape
    Marital rape

  16. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    It would be better if you first explain what you understand by these terms — and then we can go from there. Jeanne Scott

  17. Superior Mind says:

    Girls are going to get drunk whether or not their drinks are free. Hell, most of the girls I know are heavier drinkers than the guys. The fact that the drinks are free raises the point that they’re going to drink more but that’s not really true is it? If the staff operate within the bounds of the law, (Sale of Liquor Act 1989,) then there should be no problem.

    Sorry for getting us back on topic.

  18. Laura McQuillan says:

    How about we go with what the law says on the topic.

  19. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    It’s a bit of a cop out to lay all of the law — after all the law as we now know is (and, unfortunately, we will come to know it) is in great informed and feminists and their aims. Yes the law explicitly
    describes what consistitutes these (afore mentioned) acts and
    recommends (and perhaps insists) on certain punishements.

    In truth I wouldn’t argue that four types of rape that you mention are in fact rape. However I would argue about what
    consistitutes sexual assualt and I would argue about the severity of punishements for both rape and sexual assualt. These are the perhaps better examples of what I was trying to indicate before.

    best, Jeanne Scott

  20. Superior Mind says:

    Man, here I was thinking that the topic of the day was free drinks. I’ll go hide in my shame corner for being so tragically mistaken.

    Not wanting to be left out though I will say that since you seem confused about what rape is, a dictionary might be a good start.

    Rape: noun:
    a plant, Brassica napus, of the mustard family, whose leaves are used for food for hogs, sheep, etc., and whose seeds yield rape oil.

  21. Stevie Ray says:

    Well I must say, I’ve never encountered bottled rape oil at the supermarket, but still… I’ve played in a band for a couple of years now [as a drummer] and when you’re in a joint full of ragingly drunk guys and girls and you’re completely sober yourself, you see how much the guys try to take advantage of the girls – it’s kind of sickening. And this is when everyone is paying full [and high] price for every glass. It’s bad enough when the female patrons are half drunk and can still push it off – The last thing it needed is copious amounts of free booze for the ladies.

    It’s only happened once but at one of our gigs a girl nearly did get raped – the guys [apparently it was a couple of them] got her pants off in the car park before a friend came looking for her. No one could hear her screaming because the of the music. The sad fact is, a lot of guys will take advantage of a drunk girl.
    It’s not pretty.

  22. Laura McQuillan says:

    I think you stopped making sense JUST before you started commenting on here, Jeanne.

  23. Superior Mind says:

    Actually Stevie I’m sure you have encountered bottle rape oil at the supermarket although it’s known as Canola Oil – a much more marketable name.

    Aren’t I just the ambassador of keeping things on topic today?

  24. Adrian Leverkuhn says:

    Sorry — my grammar was a bit rushed in my last message.
    We can of course continue our discussion about rape, sexual harassment, their respective, hypeventilated and unfair punishments. regards, Jeanne

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