Despite an administrative ruling that says the ladies' night at a Cherry Hill bar and restaurant violated state civil rights rules, Assembly members Thursday said there ought to be a law protecting the practice.
The Assembly voted 78-0 to approve a bill making it legal for bar owners and others to offer special promotions such as charging women different prices for drinks. The measure was designed to specifically overturn that June 1 ruling.
"It defies common sense to view Ladies Night as anything other than a way for a bar or restaurant owner to stay competitive and successful," said the measure's sponsor, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Middlesex.
Earlier this month the director of the state Division on Civil Rights ruled in favor of a man who said it wasn't fair for women to get into the Coastline bar and restaurant in Cherry Hill for free and to enjoy discounted drinks while men paid $5 and full price for beverages.
Though it dealt specifically with the weekly event at the Coastline, the ruling carries the force of a court decision and applies statewide.
Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, the author of the decision, rejected the Coastline's argument that ladies' nights were legitimate commercial promotions. The commercial intent does not override the "important social policy objective of eradicating discrimination," he ruled.
Gov. James E. McGreevey led the charge in denouncing the decision, calling it "bureaucratic nonsense."
The bill now heads to the Senate.
Courts in other states have issued divergent opinions on such promotions.
Judges in Pennsylvania and Iowa have said similar events are illegal, but 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.