This is a hot topic and one that I have been following very closely.
The fallout from this debate could open the door to other kinds of discrimination, and yet I sit on the fence as the debate lingers…
I hate nightclubs.
If I had it my way, I’d never go to one again.
No lounges either. No dance halls, or anything described as an “event.”
I got a job bartending at the hottest uptown nightclub at the mere age of 18, and thus my obsession with nightclubs began. By the time I was 22 or 23, I was sour on the whole scene, and now at 31 years old, I hope to God I never have to set foot inside one again.
Bottle service, VIP, line-ups, doormen, $10 drinks, $25 cover, coat-check lines, deafening music, sardine-can style people packed into a room – these are the things I won’t miss.
I think one of the worst aspects of Toronto is the mid-20’s culture that exists inside nightclubs, where anybody who doesn’t look like a GQ or Victoria’s Secret model doesn’t belong.
Last week, there was a lot of press about Toronto nightclubs that are restricting the age of their patrons; notably those men under 21 years old, or in some cases, those men under 25 years old.
Musik, Century Room, Maison, Pravda, and Maison Mercer are just a few.
Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Raj Anand, has taken notice, and he’s of the mindset that these age restrictions are a violation of the Human Rights Code.
Personally, I’m on the fence. I’d like to weigh in from both sides of the equation.
1) This is NOT a violation.
Why are we even talking about this?
Aren’t we in a free society? Isn’t this a democracy? More importantly – isn’t this a capitalistic society with free enterprise?
Any business owner who sticks his or her neck out to try and start a bar, nightclub, or lounge – which happens to fall into the “toughest business to succeed at” category, should be able to come up with whatever business model he or she desires.
If a bar owner can choose to sell only Labatt products and not Molson, is this discrimination? Or is this just smart business practice?
A liquor licence is not easy to come by in the Province of Ontario, and thus it could be viewed as an asset worth hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, if not millions when the establishment is among the most successful. Like any asset of significant value, safeguards need to be established to protect the asset.
Let’s be up front and discuss what we all know to be true.
19-year-old guys are the most likely to get rowdy, start fights, and cause trouble.
19-year-old guys don’t have as much money as 28-year-old guys.
These are two facts that will affect the establishment’s ability to make money and protect the business.
Consider the group of five 19-year-old guys who have very little money and elect to “pre-drink” at their friend’s bachelor condo in CityPlace. They get trashed a combination of 40’s and Old Milwaukee, and then head down to a classy establishment around 11PM. They each purchase one drink, don’t tip, and then nurse it all night as the sixteen ounces of vodka set in.
Every establishment has a capacity, and letting in these five guys, who spend $30 total on the night, means that five other guys might not get in to the club.
Those five other guys could be successful, affluent, 27-year-olds who have no problem dropping $1,000 combined in the evening; maybe more.
Would it be fair to suggest that if anybody is going to get hammered and pick a fight, it would be the 19-year-old instead of the 27-year-old? I think so.
The owner of the establishment is not running a non-profit, or some sort of socialist happy-happy club. The owner is interested in one thing, and one thing only: money.
It would be a smart business decision, in any industry, to focus on those clients who are willing to spend the most money, and try to eliminate those who waste your time. I’m in real estate, and if I get contacted by a potential buyer who says, “I’m looking to purchase in two years but I really want to do some research now – would you mind showing me 20-30 properties this weekend?” I’d likely pass on the business. If I spent six hours showing that person properties, knowing full-well that I’m not going to get a sale for two years (likely not at all), then I’d be losing out on somebody else who wants to trade in real estate.
I have a finite amount of hours in a week that I can work, and my business is flourishing. I have to spend my time wisely.
Likewise, many bars have a limited number of patrons they can allow inside, and it seems to reason that they should choose those who will make them the most money.
As far as this debate pertains to women, I think the call is obvious.
Women date older men; plain and simple.
Men go to bars where women are in abundance; even simpler.
23-year-old girls are not interested in 19-year-old men, thus the men serve no purpose.
If a nightclub does not have enough women inside, men will not attend.
These two facts go hand-in-hand, and at the risk of sounding sexist, men spend more money in nightclubs than women do. It’s not to say anything about how much money people make, in fact, I’m convinced that most of the men inside these clubs are running debts on their VISA cards! But many women don’t buy their own drinks, and as long as men continue to act as the weaker sex, this trend will continue.
When a bar buys vodka in bulk, it might cost them $0.30 for an ounce, of which each drink is made. Whether the establishment charges $6.00 for a drink, or $11.00 for a drink, the price they pay is likely the same.
In order to charge $11.00 per drink, the establishment has to be “upper class” or “luxury,” and attracting affluent men and women is the only way to achieve the higher margin.
2) This IS a violation
“Jews need not apply.”
“Blacks to the back of the bus.”
These statements represent dark days in our society, and in 2011, we look back on this and say “Of course that was wrong!”
So how is this any different than saying, “Must be 25 years old to enter?”
The American Declaration of Independence suggested that “all men are created equal” back in 1776, and yet we know this not to be anything close to true. It took close to 200 years for women to gain equal footing with men, and for blacks to gain equal footing with whites. We acknowledge these faults, today, as we should, and as we should have always done.
Ontario Liquor Laws mandate that all persons must be 19 years of age to legally purchase, possess, or consume alcohol, as well as enter establishments where alcohol is served. And yet despite these laws, handed down by our elected government body, individual business-owners or event-planners will take it upon themselves to adjust these laws as they see fit.
How can this be?
How can they get away with such blatant discrimination?
If these practices are allowed, it simply opens Pandora’s Box as far as the Toronto entertainment industry goes.
We’re already seeing “Style Codes” that allow a doorman to pass judgement on a patron’s shoes, shirt, or jacket. How many people get turned away from nightclubs each weekend because some roided-up fatso at the door doesn’t like the person’s pants?
If we allow age restrictions, it opens the door to any restrictions deemed necessary by the establishment’s owner.
What if the owner were to stand outside the club, much like Mike Myers in Studio 54, and pick and choose who can enter the club?
“You’re too fat, so you can get out of line because you’re not getting in tonight.”
“Dude in the back – your shoes look like you got them at Winner’s. Save some money on cover-charge, and go buy yourself a pair of Prada’s.”
“You there – the hot blonde with the low-cut top; you can come in, but your ugly-ass friend can’t. Bu-Bye.”
It might sound far-fetched, but it’s not.
The more power you give to money-hungry nightclub owners, the more rules they’re going to bend and eventually break.
And if there aren’t any rules in place, then God help us all.
We’re opening the door to a society that only cares about appearances and materialistic traits.
And what if a 50-year-old man wants to come into the club? Are we going to restrict his age because he’s too old and he’ll look out of place?
Are we saying that only men aged 25-39 can come inside? And girls of any age can come in, because men are pathetic and will take whatever they can get?
Any business-owner has a right to profit; that’s a given in our society. But that business owner must adhere to the laws in place, and should not be able to claim “I have to make a living – these laws shouldn’t apply.” That’s not up to the individual business owner to determine.
If you allow a little discrimination to persist, eventually you’re going to find that a lot of it exists.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission should tackle this issue before it gets out of hand, and before we, as a society, start labelling people as “better” than the person standing next to them.
So what do I really believe?
A little bit of both, to be honest.
But I use that classic example of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Everybody complains that the team sucks and “they should really do something about it.” But as long as there are sell-outs for every single game, the management and ownership has no incentive to make changes. Unless people stop going to the games and ticket sales fall from 16,000 to 9,000, the message will never get to the people at the top.
So long as Toronto’s 20-somethings continue to pack into crowded industrial spaces with cheap couches and loud music, and pay $220 plus tip and tax for a bottle of booze that costs $30 at the LCBO, nightclub owners will continue to exploit them.
I only attend these establishments when it’s somebody’s birthday and I absolutely have to go. I would never say, “Hey, it’s Friday night. Let’s go to Cheval, wait in line for thirty minutes even though the club is half-empty, and spend $300 per person to be elbowed in the ribs every two minutes.”
I don’t understand the appeal.
I guess single guys want to meet girls, but I wouldn’t want to meet a girl at a place like that. Never did.
In the end, I’ll shrug my shoulders on this topic. It doesn’t affect me, and I don’t really care about the outcome.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t love to follow the debate!