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When it comes to closing out a bar tab in Toledo, sometimes it pays to be a woman.
Several nights a week, female patrons of area bars and nightclubs enjoy "ladies' night" drink specials and no cover charges - but in other parts of the country, such deals have been declared illegal.
The director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ruled June 1 it's unlawful for a restaurant to offer women discounts based on gender, and courts in several other states, including California, Florida, and New York, have taken similar positions.
To the delight of some - and the chagrin of others - ladies' nights in Ohio don't appear to be going away any time soon.
Bier Stube's busiest night is "Wild Woman Wednesday," owner Jeff Bollin said.
He said the recent New Jersey lawsuit against women's discounts was an example of "making something out of nothing."
He's become somewhat of an expert on the subject, having fielded a complaint or two of his own.
"Some guys have asked me why we don't have a men's night," he said. "I say, 'We do. It's Wednesday night. We bring in the women for you guys.'●"
Often on Wednesdays - when female patrons at Bier Stube pay $1 less than men for each beer or margarita - Mr. Bollin said his bar is filled to capacity, mostly with 20-somethings. About half the customers are women.
"At 2:30 [a.m.], we're pushing them out the door," he said.
Janet Dela Hamaide compared ladies' night bargains to senior citizen deals, adding that she thinks both are acceptable. Men also receive drink discounts at bars because of their preference for beer, she said.
"It's a business," she said while
having a drink at Diva, a downtown Toledo restaurant and bar that has a number of special promotions for women. "Who, women-wise, goes out because there's a beer special?"
Carrie Wilson, a bartender at Bier Stube, said the Monroe Street bar's Wednesday night deals and women-only games including tug-of-war and arm wrestling keep patrons of both sexes happy.
"I don't think too many guys complain about it," she said.
Dan Boszor, who played pool at Bier Stube on a recent night, doesn't mind a bit. In fact, he hopes area bars continue offering discounts to women.
"Single guys like me approaching their late twenties need places to make incentives for ladies to go out," he said.
On Fridays, Rain nightclub in downtown Toledo admits women without a cover charge until midnight, while men pay $5. Rain bartender Nick Choma said he thinks women's discounts are generally accepted.
But some men think such promotions are unfair.
"We never get any specials," said Jaan Kanellis as he took a break from playing pool at Bier Stube. "We're always paying max price."
The lawsuits in other states stem from women who have found ladies' nights offensive, said John Banzhaf III, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.
In 1995, three of his female students filed a complaint against several Washington bars, alleging that their ladies' night deals perpetuated gender stereotypes and made women "sex lures" for male patrons.
The students succeeded, and restaurants signed cease-and-desist orders, Mr. Banzhaf said.
Based on state statutes condemning discrimination, courts and antidiscrimination agencies in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia have ruled ladies' night discounts illegal and ordered bars that hold them to stop, Mr. Banzhaf said.
But Anna Miller, who sipped a drink at female-friendly Diva on a recent night, said she doesn't mind paying less at some establishments because of her gender. And she said businesses benefit too. "If it's not illegal, it's a valid marketing technique," she said.
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