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.
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