Minnesota agency says "ladies nights" discriminates

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters Life!) - Oh yes, it’s ladies night, but the feeling’s not right.

The new head of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is cracking down on bars and restaurants in the state that offer free or cut-price drinks and other giveaways to female customers.

In an e-mail obtained by Reuters, the agency says the popular promotions, celebrated in the 1979 hit song by Kool and the Gang, are an illegal form of gender discrimination because they deny “men the right to the ‘full and equal enjoyment’ of the goods of a place of public accommodation because of sex.”

“It is the Department of Human Rights’ position that ladies’ night is illegal,” Commissioner James Kirkpatrick wrote in the memo. “Gender-based pricing violates the Human Rights Act.”

The department, which is charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws, said it was pursuing cases against five businesses in Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul that it said were violating the law -- though it declined to identify them, saying the names of charging parties and respondents are private until the cases are closed.

Kirkpatrick, a former deputy commissioner at the department, was tapped to head the agency last month by Tim Pawlenty, the state’s Republican governor who is widely expected to vie to be his party’s nominee in the 2012 presidential race.

Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Jonathan Oatis