Clothes don't always make the man in Montgomery County.
A Circuit Court judge has reversed last year's ruling by the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission that a Silver Spring delicatessen's Thursday Skirt and Gown Night, when customers of either sex who were wearing that attire ate dinner for half price, was just another Ladies' Night in drag.
According to Woodside Deli owner Gus Haris, Circuit Court Judge William Cave ruled that marking down dinners "based on dress and not on gender" was not a discriminatory act. Haris said Cave also observed that it was outside the commission's authority to define proper garb for men or women.
Sarah Burns, assistant director of the Sex Discrimination Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center, said the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has been notified it will get the case. Another appeal, in which money damages are sought, is pending in another Circuit Court.
The original suit was filed almost two years ago by Rockville engineer Richard J. Peppin, who complained after a woman companion was charged only half price for her sandwich on a Ladies Night at the deli.
After Haris was ordered to stop promoting Ladies Night, he advertised Skirt and Gown Night "as a rebuttal." The first Skirt and Gown Night was attended by one male customer in Scots kilt and another in a Little Red Riding Hood nightgown.
Cold weather has delayed the return of Skirt and Gown Night, Haris said, adding, "maybe we'll make it a seasonal thing."
"I've been prevented from having my real moneymaker," Ladies Night, Haris said. "And I'm still $11,000 out of pocket" for attorneys fees. But he said the publicity has helped business.
The Woodside Deli case is tailor-made for publicity, as even Burns admits. At the height of the controversy, it was the subject of a celebrity question on "Hollywood Squares."