Hong Kong bars set to bring back ladies’ nights after court rejects discrimination lawsuit

Trade association says pubs lost up to half of their business as they waited for the decision

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 10:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 11:29pm

At least 30 bars and pubs in Hong Kong are expected to resume offering ladies’ night discounts to boost their battered sales after a judge ruled out a payout of HK$50,000 in compensation to an aggrieved customer who took a club to court for offering women cheaper drinks, a leading trade association said on Friday.

Chin Chun-wing, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Bar and Club Association, said pub owners were relieved by the ruling.

He said bars and clubs, in the belief that future similar claims were unlikely, planned to promote ladies’ night offers again to attract patrons.

“We’ve lost up to 50 per cent of business,” he said of the impact of the sex discrimination lawsuit that left the industry in limbo over the past year.

Ladies’ nights: a woman’s right to cheap drinks or reflection of deep-rooted discrimination and commodification of women

Disgruntled club-goer Yiu Shui-kwong, who accused a karaoke and disco club of breaching sex discrimination laws by charging men more for a drink than women, filed a claim in the District Court in October last year with the assistance of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The court accepted the watchdog’s application for a judgment after Legend World Asia Group, named as the respondent, failed to give notice of opposition.

But after the ruling in Yiu’s favour, acting chief district judge Justin Ko King-sau wrote in a related decision on Thursday that it would be “absurd” if the claimant obtained a “windfall”.

Yiu said he paid HK$300 to enter the Legends Club on July 28, 2014, while female customers were charged HK$120. He claimed he was treated less favourably by Legend World Asia on the grounds of his sex.

But the club-goer later abandoned his claim for a declaration that the club was in breach of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. Instead, he sought damages only for injury to feelings, suggesting an award of HK$50,000.

Last orders for Ladies’ Nights? Cheaper drinks for women is sex discrimination, man tells Hong Kong’s equal opportunities watchdog

After considering his evidence, Ko rejected the claim that Yiu had suffered any injury to his feelings as a result of the “less favourable treatment” he received.

Allan Zeman, chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group and one of the pioneers of popular nightspot Lan Kwai Fong, welcomed the court’s decision.

“Common sense prevailed. It’s a logical ruling,” Zeman said.

But he played down the implications of the lawsuit for the club business, saying that few people took the claim seriously.

“Ladies’ night has been a tradition for so many years,” the businessman said.

He said it was essentially for a commercial purpose to increase business and never meant to discriminate against people.

“It’s kind of a retail shop on sale,” he added.