Are ladies’ nights legal?

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By Katie King on

Equality and Human Rights Commission casts doubt on enticing nightclub offers


It’s long been a question that’s stumped inquisitive minds: how do clubs get away with offering women cheap or free entry, while charging men for exactly the same thing?

It’s a nationwide practice that we’ve come to expect and accept, and is particularly common in the capital. But is it legal?

Instinctively, the answer is no, and the Equality and Humans Rights Commission (EHRC) has confirmed our suspicions by updating guidance on the matter. And the guidance says this:

An advert that restricts goods, facilities and services to a particular group is unlawful except in very limited circumstances.

The guidance then goes on to provide examples of adverts “which might be unlawfully discriminatory”, and this list includes:

Adverts for hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, pubs and recreation centres giving preferential treatment to a particular group, for example an advert stating that women have free entry into a nightclub.

The authority that the EHCR — chaired by Rebecca Hilsenrath, formerly of pro bono superpower LawWorks — cites in its guidance is the Equality Act 2010. So it seems ladies’ nights have been illegal for at least five years, if not longer, yet this overtly discriminatory practice has rumbled on for decades.

It doesn’t add up, so we spoke to Shoaib Khan — a human rights lawyer and big name commentator in the legal Twittersphere — to find out how clubs get away with it.

Khan agreed that, depending on what exactly is being offered, ladies’ nights are “highly likely to be unlawful discrimination.” So how are clubs allowed to get away with it? He explained:

We continue to see such offers advertised not because they are legal, but because they have not been legally challenged. In the absence of any legal challenge on this specific issue, the EHRC has been left to police the situation and inform clubs of the law when the matter is brought to its attention.

Ladies’ nights and similar offers have been declared unlawfully discriminatory in a number of US states and, according to Khan, it is “highly likely that a UK court would form the same view”, especially given the EHRC’s stance.

So maybe we’ll see the end of this plainly discriminatory practice in the near future — if someone is up for bringing the challenge.