Peruvian restaurant fined for sexist “ladies menu”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives (Getty Images)

Back in the days of fine dining, fancy restaurants believed that ladies weren’t supposed to worry their pretty little heads about the price of a steak dinner. That was for the big, strong, fat-walleted men. (Besides, who ever heard of a gal with spending power? So silly!) So restaurants typically had two menus, one with prices and one without.

That custom has mostly died, but La Rosa Nautica in Lima, Peru, has persisted in separate menus for men and women—at least until last week, the Associated Press reports, when the restaurant was fined the equivalent of $62,000 by the National Institute for the Defense of Free Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property on grounds of gender discrimination.

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La Rosa Nautica’s policy didn’t go down without a fight. The two-menu system, the restaurant’s lawyers argued, “extoll[s] the position of women, considering it a pleasure for them to enjoy a romantic evening with their partner, without taking into account the cost of the services.”

The National Institute for the Defense of Free Competition et al wasn’t having it. “These small things may seem harmless,” Liliana Cerrón, an official with the agency, told the AP. “But at the end of the day they are the basis of a chauvinistic construct reinforcing differences between men and women.”

But what would La Rosa Nautica do if two women came in unaccompanied by a man? Would the bill come as a complete surprise to them at the end of the meal? Would they have to wash dishes if they couldn’t pay? What about nonbinary customers? For people who aren’t men, were prices only revealed to those who directly asked for them, or were they kept a deep, dark secret? Maybe the restaurant very chivalrously let them eat for free, which means that this ruling doesn’t really benefit women after all.

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.