Women as bait

April 25, 2006

Ladies' nights, when drinks are offered at reduced prices to women in hopes that they in turn will attract more men, are a long-time staple of the bar promotion game. Yet the owner of the Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park has come up with a disturbing new variation on the theme.

During "Ladies Lockdown," held twice a year from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, only women are admitted - mostly the University of Maryland students who are the principal clientele of this popular hangout - and they can drink virtually for free.

Bar owner Mark Srour calls these events a kind of thank-you gift to customers that allows women to relax with one another, drinking and dancing in a safe, nonthreatening atmosphere.

The more obvious interpretation of these well-advertised events, however, is that young women are encouraged to drink as much as possible until 11 p.m., when young men arrive expecting to find them in an accommodating state.

Whatever the motive, hosting such evenings is an irresponsible business practice that at best encourages binge drinking and at worst has predatory overtones.

The customers involved may be adults, but they also belong to an age group most at risk for episodic drinking bouts and their aftermath.

Mr. Srour says he plans to meet with a group of female university employees led by Heidi Kappeler Biffl, housing coordinator for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, who have raised alarms about the "lockdowns." The next one of these promotions will be "more politically correct," Mr. Srour said, but he's not yet sure how.

Here's a suggestion: Don't single women out, ply them with beer and shots, and turn them loose late on a Saturday night. Open the thank-you party to everyone, offer free food and charge for the booze.

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