Ladies Night

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SEA
ISLE, NJ – The big news in town is that “Ladies Night” is illegal.
Last week, it had top billing on the marquee at La Costa, a seashore
bar at the intersection where New York meets Philadelphia. But New
Jersey’s top civil rights official, J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, has
ruled that taverns are illegally discriminating against men when
they offer cheap drinks and no cover charges to women.

In
his ruling, Vespa-Papaleo agreed with David Gillespie, a former
patron of the Coastline Restaurant, a Cherry Hill nightspot, who
claimed it wasn’t fair that women got into the club free on Wednesdays
while he was paying a $5 cover charge, and not right that he was
paying $3 for drinks that women could get for $1.50.

The
owner of the Coastline, Chris Mourtos, said that no one but Gillespie
complained about “Ladies Night” in 26 years. In terms of total costs
and benefits, probably most guys over the last quarter century didn’t
feel victimized enough to run to the government about drink prices
that expanded their chances of landing someone. Every good fisher
(a person of gender who fishes) around here knows that you’ve got
to hit a school to not come home empty-handed, no matter what it
takes – radar, sonar, lights, blood in the water, bucktails,
shiners and lures of every stripe. To catch a fish, you need to
draw a crowd.

Gillespie
seems to have missed how the game was played. “The girls do all
the buying,” explained Mourtos. In other words, all Gillespie had
to do to become a beneficiary of the system was approach a woman,
give her $1.50 and ask her to buy him a drink. In any case, “Ladies
Night” is now off the marquee at La Costa, replaced by something
called a “Hedonism Raffle,” a turn of events that sounds like it
might have Vespa-Papaleo wishing he’d have left well enough alone.

The
good news is that price discrimination is still alive and well at
the local theaters. We saw a double feature on Thursday night, “My
Architect” and “The Stepford Wives,” and paid half as much as the
poor teenagers in the crowd, and there wasn’t a peep from any of
the enforcers of egalitarianism in Vespa-Papaleo’s office.

The
other big news here is that lawsuits have the schools afraid of
the kids. The story under the front-page headline in The Press
of Atlantic City, “Schools suffering lawsuit anxiety,” pointed to
a survey in which “79 percent of teachers said students were quick
to remind them that they have rights and their parents can sue.”
In March, a local jury awarded $3 million to a high school girl
who claimed her eating disorder was caused by an overly vigilant
basketball coach. In May, another nearby school district ended the
school year by getting sued by a father who claimed his daughter’s
“rights of free speech and assembly” were violated by the school’s
limitations on table jumping during lunch.

The
$3 million award was vacated by the court, saying the girl hadn’t
shown any permanent damage, but the message was sent. What that
means, says The Press, is that teachers are now afraid to even meet
with a student in an empty classroom, afraid to exert authority.
It means that schools are locked down during the day, teachers spend
more time establishing a paper trail to justify every grade and
every disciplinary action, and video cameras are installed in the
halls, classrooms and offices as legal tools, useful in providing
evidence.

In
other regulatory news, the bureaucrats in Santa Fe were recently
toying with the idea of making it a crime for a dog to ride around
without a seat belt. Nugget, our 6-year-old male golden retriever,
likes to ride with his head sticking out the side window. Chloe,
our 2-year-old female golden, likes to speed around town with her
head sticking out of the sun roof like a hood ornament. I can’t
picture either of them running for the car anymore, ears flying,
if they had to ride around in the back seat looking like they were
tied down to two electric chairs.

Tocqueville
had it right. If tyranny comes to a democracy, it’ll come in the
form of a “network of small and complicated rules,” all designed
to take us to ever higher levels of collective fairness and safety.

June
23, 2004

Ralph
R. Reiland [send him mail]
is a
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist and the B. Kenneth Simon
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University.

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