Many nightclubs are renowned for their door policy. Door policies can lead to pride (if you meet the standard), worry (will I get in?), or contempt (when you realise you are wearing trainers and are, therefore, deemed the kind of riff-raff the club is trying to steer clear of). It occurred to me today, though, many common door policies may be illegal under the recently passed Equality Act 2010.
In specific, attention is drawn to the gender-based policies. One example is the entry fee that many clubs choose to operate, men having to pay a fee (often £20 or more) whilst women can get in for free. Another common policy is to turn away male-only groups, whereas female-only groups are welcomed.
The mechanisms of the Equality Act are complex, but here is a summary. Under the Equality Act, discrimination is defined as where someone treats another less favourably than they treat others because of a “protected characteristic”, and gender is a “protected characteristic”. A club is deemed a “service provider” under the Act, and it is illegal for a service provider to discriminate as to the terms on which they provide their services. Because the club is directly (as opposed to indirectly) discriminating, because they are discriminating on gender alone, they cannot justify their door policy on any business consideration.
In sum, a club that has an entrance policy that favours females over males discriminates for the purposes of the Equality Act. It seems that any man who bears the burden of such a policy may be able to make a claim against the club.
I write this blog as an observation on the far reaching effects of equality legislation taking hold in UK law, and surprise that discriminating practices under such legislation are still so widespread. I reserve judgment on whether clubs should be able to discriminate on the door; it perhaps is an issue relevant to whether direct discrimination is ever justifiable. But for current purposes, many clubs may find themselves with illegal door policies. Whether their bouncers will care or not is another matter.