Monday, May 15, 2006

Ladies Lockdown

Walking into a bar full of college women on a Saturday night last month, College Park residents Heidi Biffl and Stephanie Stullich said they felt a responsibility to watch over the women at the semiannual ‘‘Ladies’ Lockdown” night at Cornerstone Grill and Loft.

Along with eight other residents and concerned University of Maryland faculty, Stullich and Biffl said they wanted to make sure the promotion – which charged women a penny for liquor and beer beginning at 9 p.m. – did not get out of hand.

Both Stullich and Biffl are concerned, because no men are allowed into the bar, until 11 p.m., two hours after the college women have been downing shots of Jack Daniels and beer funnels.

‘‘To me, it looked like drunk women for predatory boys,” said Biffl, a supervisor for residential fellows at the university, of Cornerstone’s biannual promotion. ‘‘I think the women were young and beautiful and having a good time, but I felt pretty protective of them. I just wanted to change the tone ... because maybe you would change your behavior if someone who looks like your mom was in the room.”

Cornerstone owner Mark Srour admitted that ‘‘Ladies’ Lockdown” could have been more tastefully advertised and conducted, adding that community members and university faculty misinterpreted the event.

‘‘What they said was not the truth. ... It was their version of what they saw,” Srour said of those who decried the promotion. ‘‘Politically, it was wrong and we are doing things to correct it. The promotion itself wasn’t the greatest promotion for the town and the bar. It was not a positive promotion.”

College Park Mayor Stephen Brayman said the city is working to bring together Srour, concerned residents and university faculty to discuss how future Cornerstone promotions can be conducted more safely. Srour said he was willing to discuss the issue with residents ‘‘as soon as possible.”

‘‘Nowadays, every organization is staring at you under a microscope and you can’t have very clean, fun things without being scrutinized,” Srour said. ‘‘But we’ll put a lot of their concerns to rest and everyone will live in peace and harmony.”

Stullich, president of the Old Towne Civic Association, said Srour and Cornerstone management should be more responsible with future ladies’ night events.

‘‘He had a particular agenda to try to attract male customers with drunken and impaired female customers,” Stullich said. ‘‘It contributes to the problems we have [in College Park].”

Reactions from college women varied, Stullich said, but some young women were pleasantly surprised by residents’ concern.

‘‘They said they could take care of themselves, but they appreciated that we cared,” she said. ‘‘They didn’t perceive that we were hostile toward them, because we weren’t.”

The pervasiveness of ladies’ nights – which presumably attract male customers with the promise of a bar full of women – made it difficult to convince others of the dangers of ‘‘Ladies’ Lockdown” at Cornerstone, Biffl said.

‘‘I don’t know that [Srour] had bad intentions,” she said. ‘‘People have gotten used to these types of marketing strategies and don’t see them as dangerous anymore, but they are.”