I recently went to a Macado's, for karaoke night. When we went to enter, the lady said it would be a 2$ "Cover fee". I asked if it was for both of us (my gf and I), or total, and she said it was just for me because im male. I have since found out that this is common practice in bars, nightclubs, and other things to ensure a nice ratio of men to women. Still, it feels very sexist to charge more for a specific gender. From the research I have done, it seems to be a grey area or illegal but largely unenforced. I am in Virginia, BTW.

The most on topic sources I have found are here and here.

I have looked for questions on this site, but have not seen any (that closely relate) after going through several pages.

3 Answers 3


US federal law prohibits gender discrimination in some spheres, including employment (42 USC 2000e-2), but it does not prohibit it in public accommodations (42 USC 2000a):

(a) Equal access

All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

To address my earlier comment, discounts based on age or gender are not covered by this law, but discounts based on race or religion would be.

The Virginia Human Rights Act is essentially a statement of policy regarding the enforcement of antidiscrimination prohibitions created by other laws. There does not seem to be any other Virginia law creating a prohibition on gender discrimination in public accommodations.

  • This answer suffers from the same problems as hszmv's answer.
    – Putvi
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:13
  • @Putvi which are those? The only problem I see there is alluding to the existence of court cases without naming them, which this answer does not do.
    – phoog
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:27
  • A. That a cover fee is the same as the changing the price of a good or service and B. That you do not include that the person alleging such must prove the harm or affect of the discrimination for it to be so
    – Putvi
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 21:25
  • @Putvi A cover fee that varies by (e.g.) race would clearly violate the quoted statute because it would deprive people from full and equal enjoyment of the facilities of a public accommodation because of race, regardless of whether a cover fee is the same as changing the price of a good or service. There is no need to allege harm beyond the discrimination itself (§2000a-3), and in any event talking about the mechanics of civil suits would be out of scope for the question, just as mechanics of criminal trials are for a question like "is it legal to cross the street when the light is red?"
    – phoog
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 22:18
  • 1
    @phoog Since race would clearly violate it, why is gender any different? I mean no physical "harm" per say came to me, just a sour feeling that kinda ruined the night for me.
    – DOSLuke
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 1:21

There have been several cases where bars promoting a Ladies Night have been sued, though cases at the Federal Level have not been successful. In the following States, Ladies Night events are violations of Civil Rights laws and are illegal (mostly judged by a state court of law): California, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

I would suggest reading into VA laws regaurding Gender Discrimination and what the process for filing a Civil Rights case.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 17:20

As I suspected, my first answer was down voted, but now that the arguments are out, let me expand.

There have been lawsuits based on anti discrimination laws, that make charging more for a good or service for men illegal in some places. That does not apply to Virginia, the state that about which the question is asked. As sated in another answer, gender is not a protected class in Virginia for these purposes.

However, a cover charge is different from the cost of a good or service, because it can be applied as a way of deciding who is accepted in rather than as payment for a good or service. The business has the right to accept so many people at a certain time, and this is a way of regulating that. There do not seem to be any court cases that have found the cover fee itself to be a violation.

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