Does Toronto bar prohibit men from dancing on tables and is that gender discrimination?
As the clock strikes 11 p.m. at Pizza Wine Disco on King West, the venue transforms from a restaurant to a club.
Staff relocate tables to make space for a disco-style dance floor, music roars, and customers begin dancing on a platformed space attached to the booths.
However, some say their experience in Pizza Wine Disco's club atmosphere was interrupted by an unsettling observation.
Kaitlyn Martini, a 19-year-old student at Toronto Metropolitan University, left angry after gathering at Pizza Wine Disco with friends to celebrate her father's 52nd birthday.
"When dancing on tables like everyone else, our male friends were forced off and told that only females are allowed on tables," Martini and her friend Helena Holmes wrote in an online review for the establishment.
"This isn't a frat house; it's an establishment that should be professional enough to not have sexist, strange rules in place."
A representative for Pizza Wine Disco maintains they do not have a policy for who is permitted to dance on tables.
"In the sense of people dancing on tables, it's frowned upon in general, but it's hard to control," says the representative.
"Nobody wants to see me, a 230-240 pound guy, dancing on a table. I might break it. But there are no policies in that sense. I'm pretty sure this is a one-off situation rather than a cultural situation where it's a policy that was enforced and you would see constant security going back and forth."
Videos of men dancing on the tables at the venue can be easily found on social media, suggesting that the bar doesn't have a fixed policy regarding this behaviour.
However, in an interview with blogTO, Martini explains that the experience at her father's birthday echoed a previous encounter she had at the club and solidified her belief that gender-based discrimination is ingrained in the club's practices.
Numerous Google reviews by various individuals recount a similar experience as Martini, where men were specifically asked to descend from tables solely based on their gender.
"When they tell guys to get down, it's like they're keeping women up there to be sexualized and seen by the whole crowd," Martini tells blogTO.
"In this day and age, I don't think clubs should be putting gender descriptions on people," she adds. "The thing is, we don't see a lot of queer people at these places because of that reason. It's not a safe place for them."
The alleged practice of removing men from tables at Pizza Wine Disco sheds light on an ongoing issue with gender inclusivity in Toronto's wider nightlife scene. Door policies favoring women-presenting individuals after a certain time are so common they tend to go unquestioned.
But common or normalized practices can still be discriminatory.
"Many practices that exist are discriminatory, and they're so common that people feel they can't challenge them," says labor and human rights lawyer Fay Faraday.
Organizations providing services like bars and clubs have an obligation to ensure their services are free from discrimination, including discrimination based on sex, as outlined in the Human Rights Code.
According to Faraday, intention is not the primary concern when assessing discrimination. Instead, the focus should be on the discriminatory effect of certain rules or policies.
"It's about the impact on people who are in the space," explains Faraday. "If the kind of environment being created is one that is exclusionary, demeaning, objectifying, or in other ways toxic, that creates an environment that is, in some way, tainted by discrimination."
That being said, when people go to clubs, their primary goal is not to engage in legal battles but to enjoy themselves.
So for social circles consisting of diverse individuals like Kaitlyn Martini’s, gender inequality is a pill they feel they must swallow to enjoy a night out in Toronto.
"I know a lot of my friends feel the same about this, but it's not something they're willing to speak up about because it's just the club scene, and we're going to go for that and avoid these sexist rules," says Martini.
“In reality, we shouldn't have to avoid them.”
Join the conversation Load comments