Hong Kong bar operators angry at ‘ladies’ night’ discrimination ruling

Pioneer of city’s nightlife says promotion ‘done for a reason to help the business to survive’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 1:33am

Bar and nightclub operators in the city are complaining of interference in the free market after a court ruled that “ladies’ nights” were discriminatory.

The District Court judgement this week could have wider implications for such businesses. One operator who spoke to the Post had even suspended the common practice of offering special discounts to women customers.

One of the pioneers of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s most popular nightspot, pointed out that ladies’ nights had been a worldwide practice for years and insisted the ruling was wrong.

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“Ladies’ night was just that one night of the week and was for a commercial purpose to increase business on a slow night,” said Allan Zeman, chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group.

It’s not done in order to discriminate. It’s done for a reason, to help the business to survive. We have gentlemen’s nights too.
Allan Zeman

“It’s not done in order to discriminate. It’s done for a reason, to help the business to survive. We have gentlemen’s nights too.

“If people were refused entry because of their colour or race, that’s discrimination that needs intervention.”

Zeman did, however, urge operators to follow the law.

In a bid to lure more female customers – on the presumption that will in turn bring in more men – bars and other establishments often charge women less than men on weekdays.

But the court on Wednesday ruled one promotion, run by Legend World Asia Group, which operated Club Legend in Mong Kok, violated the Sex Discrimination Ordinance by charging male and female customers different admission fees. The defendant did not turn up for the hearing to contest the case.

Club Legend charged men HK$300 for entry while women were charged HK$120 between 9.30pm and 4.30am from Sunday to Friday.

The manager of a club on Wyndham Street, Central, told the Post anonymously he would scrap ladies’ night for the time being, but would have to think of another way to keep female custom.

“A club without girls is not a club. The ruling is stupid,” he said. “How are we going to survive? Do you expect a club full of men?”

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Another operator who has been running a pub for 20 years in Lan Kwai Fong said the lawsuit was “creating trouble without any reason.”

“It’s a free market,” he said. “I pour one customer more beer because he is an old patron. Is that discriminating against other customers?”

In the United States, state courts in California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have ruled ladies’ nights unlawful.

The Hong Kong ruling still has questions about its significance.

Solicitor Kevin Yam Kin-fung pointed out that despite the binding effect of the court decision on the bar concerned, the practical reference value of the case may have been reduced as the ruling was reached without being fully contested by the accused.

“The impact will be greater if the court makes the same conclusion when handling a similar case next time, with the presence of the respondent,” he said.