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Beer, Liquor and... Equal Rights?


There's something making life difficult for the alcoholic beverage industry...

This morning, Molson Coors (TAP) reported Q2 earnings of $1.94 per share, $0.22 better than analyst estimates of $1.72; revenues rose 5.9% year/year to $1.68 bln versus the $1.64 bln consensus.

On July 27, Fortune Brands (FO) beat expectations, reporting Q2 earnings of $1.53 per share, beating the $1.44 consensus.

Analyst Gregory Gieber of AG Edwards, recently purchased by Wachovia (WB), maintains his buy rating on Brown Forman (BF-A), which will be reporting on August 30, and raised the price objective from $76.50 to $80.00. Last month, JP Morgan (JPM) upgraded the stock to overweight from neutral, and UBS (UBS) rates it a buy.

However, Scottish & Newcastle (SCTN) said on Tuesday that hitting this year's trading targets would be a challenge. Severe weather conditions in the summer and a brewery strike in France undermined key European markets. Operating profits in the UK fell 13.6% to £76mln ($153.5 mln) from £88 mln ($177.8 mln), as the beer market declined by 5.2% due to the lack of sunny weather and World Cup matches, which helped the industry perform strongly last year. As reported in the Financial Times, S&N said it expected the smoking ban introduced in England on June 1 to have a 1-2% negative impact on the beer market.

Big brewers like Anheuser-Busch (BUD) and Miller (SAB) are having a difficult time keeping up with increasingly popular craft beers, sales of which are up at least 10% this year, according to Eric Shepard, executive editor of trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights.

But, there's something else making life difficult for the alcoholic beverage industry-bars and clubs in particular.

Or, should I say, someone.

After prevailing in the first stage of a civil rights complaint against Proof Nightclub in southeast Denver in January, Steve Horner, a 59-year-old "life and business coach" declared Ladies Night "dead."

Colorado's Division of Civil Rights for the Department of Regulatory Agencies sided with Horner that men were unfairly being made to pay higher drink prices than women at Proof's ladies' nights, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Horner then one-upped himself, filing a complaint against the Westword newspaper, seeking $15,000 in damages (plus a $46 filing fee and $37 for the process server) because "from January to May 2007, the defendant published at least 30 discriminatory ads."

The ads were for various Ladies' Night events around the city and Horner was asking for $500 per "violation."

On August 2, 2007, Denver Judge Brian Campbell threw out Horner's claim, ruling that the part of the civil rights law covering actions that "indirectly" discriminate doesn't apply to advertising.

"Now I know how black people in the early part of the last century felt about being cheated out of their civil rights," Horner said. He told the judge that he felt "resentful, disrespected, and humiliated having [his] civil rights ripped away" by discriminatory drink prices.

A "resentful, disrespected, and humiliated" man

Horner's been at it for a few years. In February, 1996, he filed a human rights complaint against Hooters Restaurant at the Mall of America after the manager refused to hire him as a waiter.

When Dolores Fridge, then-deputy commissioner of Minnesota's Human Rights Department, didn't rule in his favor, Horner began harassing her by phone. Horner wound up serving a 30-day sentence on three gross misdemeanors and one count of harassment.

"The lawyer I hired wasn't worth a damn," Horner said in an interview. "She just fell into line with the dyke prosecutor, who was nothing more than a b**ch with balls."

Of course he's single…

(Note: Westword agreed not to print the names of people who wrote letters to the editor concerning Steve Horner after he tracked down their home phone numbers and harassed them. I must admit, I sort of wish my name wasn't at the top of this article.)

Now, Horner, who compares his crusade with those of Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Muhammad Ali, finally seems to have gotten his way.

Freedom fighter Steve Horner and…some woman

Freedom fighter Steve Horner and…some guy

Freedom fighter Steve Horner and…some other guy

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission adopted a resolution at its June 25 meeting that "ladies' night promotions may not involve price differentials or other differentials based on a protected class, whatever the intent. The commission strongly discourages ladies' night promotions and recommends instead that establishments consider neutral promotions involving perhaps free or reduced admissions to a limited number of customers who appear before a certain time."

Now, Proof has "Lipstick Thursdays" instead of Ladies Night. All you have to do is wear lipstick, male or female.

Horner is, of course, elated.

"This (ladies' night) is now a violation of law. I will now make it a point to visit as many ladies nights' as I can every week. I'll have my rights violated, then I'll sue them in county court and get my $500," he said after the ruling.

"I feel it could net me $3,000 to $4,000 a week easy, and I'm going to do it. It takes me five minutes to be discriminated against."

When asked exactly why he's "crusading" for men's rights, Horner took a softer, more moderate tone.

"If I was a black or a cripple or a Jew or a gay, you wouldn't dare ask me that question," he said. "I'm standing up for my civil rights."

Hey, wait-didn't Rosa Parks say that?
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