A believer in equal access to Strip party pools for all
Just hear Adam Russin out. He’s not trying to get any money, he’s not trying to draw any attention to himself and he’s absolutely, positively not trying to ruin your good time. He just has a simple question with not-so-simple implications.
Russin’s question: How can anyone seriously believe it is not discriminatory to charge a man more than a woman for the same access or service?
This spring, the 25-year-old New Yorker was staying at the Mandalay Bay for a bachelor party and wanted to go with his chums to the Moorea Beach Club, the resort’s topless pool. He was startled to find out that the pool charges men $50 for admission and $10 to women, so he filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission demanding that the practice stop.
Readers in California might be surprised to hear that such price differences even exist here. The California Supreme Court banned that practice in 1985. But in Nevada, the state’s legislature only amended its statutes in 2005 to add “sex” as a category for which discrimination in public accommodations is against public policy.
And so, given the popularity of the nightclub and for-pay pool scene on the Strip, let the complaints begin. By public accommodations, the law is so expansive that Moorea could be included under subset (j) as “any park, zoo, amusement park or other place of recreation,” subset (b) as “any restaurant, bar, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, casino or any other facility where food or spirituous or malt liquors are sold, including any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment,” subset (m) as “any gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course or other place of exercise or recreation” or even, depending on the quality of the, uh, goods, on display, subset (i) as “any museum, library, gallery or other place of public display or collection.”
It would seem that no matter how badly you want more exposed flesh at the pool, the law doesn’t allow you to engineer it through your prices.
What’s interesting is that of the five for-pay pools on the Vegas Strip today, only three have different prices for men and women: Moorea, Wet Republic at the MGM Grand and Bare at the Mirage. Two others, Venus Pool at Caesars Palace and Tao Beach at Venetian don’t.
Similarly, some nightclubs do this and some don’t. The recently opened Christian Audigier club at Treasure Island charges $30 for men and $20 for women, according to the publicist who gave those prices to The Times awhile back. (Now the club’s publicists say admission prices change regularly so there’s no policy of discriminating.) The Audigier club is owned by Pure Management Group, whose clubs regularly hold ladies’ nights and the like; Pure’s chief competition, the Light Group, does not have different prices for men and women at any of its Vegas clubs.
That proves the sky doesn’t fall if clubs and pools can’t do this. Beyond California, judges and civil rights panels in New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa and New York have also barred such practices. State courts in Illinois and Washington, though, allowed price differences as an acceptable means of drawing desired customers.
In Vegas, all of the pools with pricing differentials and several of these clubs by Pure are at MGM Mirage resorts. Corporate spokesman Alan Feldman sees the matter as a business decision, not a civil rights issue.
“I don’t think these antidiscrimination laws had any intention of preventing something like this,” Feldman said. “In the circumstance of, Tuesday night is ladies’ night, that is a business decision by individual businesses and they ought to be left free to do that.”
The Nevada Equal Rights Commission can’t comment on Russin’s case, but Russin provided faxes that indicate his complaint is proceeding.
Russin is prepared to be scorned for speaking out and because his case has the potential to change the way Vegas clubs and pools do business. And yeah, it is a bit of a cause with him; he filed a complaint in New York that led a nightclub there, which had allowed more women than men in from its rope line, to post a sign disavowing such a practice. Some of his friends have scolded him as a killjoy.
It’s enough for Russin, a manager in his family’s lumber company, to feel the need to reassert his heterosexuality.
“I love women, maybe a little too much sometimes,” Russin says. “I just want everything to be equal. I’m white and Jewish and I want to be treated the same as if I were an African American woman or a Christian. I don’t believe Mandalay Bay is doing this maliciously because they hate men. They’re doing this to drive traffic to their pool. But that doesn’t make it right.”
For more of what’s happening on and off the Strip, see latimes.com/movablebuffet.