Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Are nightclubs legally allowed to discriminate?

Leeds has a reputation for having a vibrant nightlife scene; having worked in a couple of clubs since moving here a few years ago I've experienced first hand what can be a pretty boisterous crowd on a Friday and Saturday night. There's certainly fun to be had but it helps to know where to find it.

I also occasionally like to indulge in a spot of clubbing myself, if only to enjoy the company of friends. So it was last last weekend that I found myself outside one of the numerous bars in the popular Call Lane area of the city. So far, so good.

Except that after 20 minutes or so waiting outside a particular establishment I was informed by the burly and somewhat intimidating gentleman on the door that I was to be refused entry on the grounds that I was "not dressed smartly enough". Unfortunately I was at the back of the group of friends I was with and my entry was barred after they had already been waved through. I was not permitted to inform them of the situation and thus that was the end of my somewhat frustrating night.

Now I suspect this is a fairly regular occurrence in any place that has a least one pub or a club to its name but what I want to know is where this process stands from a legal point of view. If it's illegal to discriminate on grounds of race, gender or sexuality is it permissible to discriminate on grounds of appearance? Should an establishment that enforces sartorial rules display these criteria in a prominent location so that people need not waste their time queueing to get in? How are such rules legally enforced so that they are not prone to subjective interpretation from establishment to establishment? And are bouncers legally entitled to enforce these rules?

I'd genuinely be interested to know the answers to these questions. If anyone knows of any legal challenge to rules governing appearance when it comes to pubs and clubs and the outcome of these proceedings please do let me know...

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