CA Civil Rights/Public Accomodation

Some friends and I are having a discussion. Let’s say a bar wishes to throw an invite-only party during the bar’s normally closed hours (say, early in the morning). The bar is throwing this party for its regular customers as a thank-you. The party is being paid for using bar funds, and the bar’s regular staff will be working during the party.

Now, for whatever reason, this hypothetical bar decides that only male regular customers are invited, and that female regular customers will be excluded.

My friends think this is legal. I think it’s illegal under California law, because the party would be considered a business activity, gender is a protected class, and there is no valid business purpose to excluding the women. But this isn’t my area of legal expertise, and I haven’t perused CA civil rights jurisprudence since my first year of law school. Anybody know whether this would be legal or not? If you have case cites, that’d be great. Thanks.

Pamela Griffin, “Exclusion and Access in Public Accommodations: First Amendment Limitations Upon State Law”, 16 Pac. L.J. 1047:

Martin v. PGA Tour, Inc., 204 F.3d 994 (C.A.9 Or., 2000).

Thanks for the cites, Walloon. I’m off for New Years, but I’ll take a look at Martin to see what it says. It would seem to vindicate me, but I think my friends believe that this is a non-commercial activity since it’s a party held off-hours, and thus wouldn’t fall under the scope of a public accomodation law. They’re all non-lawyers, so I don’t know why I bother arguing with them, but there you go.

In light of the fact that California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act has been interpreted to preclude even a “Ladie’s Night” where drinks are lower priced for women, I think it would be almost impossible for this to be legal in California.