National Post

Tuesday, February 16, 1999

Strip club gets its revenge for women-only gym

Gloria Galloway
National Post

Fred Greenslade, National Post / Giordani has barred women.

The owner of a Brandon, Man., strip club has filed a human-rights complaint and closed his doors to women in retaliation for a local health club's females-only policy.

"My son and his girlfriend went to the health club to join, and he was refused because he is a man," said Luciano Giordani, the owner of Sassy's strip bar. "I thought that was kind of strange, in this day and age. Therefore, we decided to make a stand and bring it to the attention of the authorities -- and to have a men's only club."

Mr. Giordani's complaint against the Isis Exclusive Health Club for Women was filed with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission last Friday. Then a sign went up on Sassy's door barring women.

The women of Brandon have not yet been up in arms at finding themselves excluded from the club.

"But there's been a few women who have read the sign and they haven't some in," said Mr. Giordani.

Isis "used to be a co-ed club and they changed it about 10 years ago. So for the last 10 years they have been allowed to get away with this," said Mr. Giordani. "To me, discrimination is discrimination . . . Hopefully the authorities will look into it."

The authorities, however, seem more concerned about the restrictions at the strip club than the health club.

For a bar or restaurant such as Sassy's to ban women is a breach of the Human Rights Code, "unless there's a bona fide reason," said Dianna Scarth, the executive director of the human rights commission. "And I haven't heard of a bona fide reason."

Health clubs, on the other hand, can often make a legitimate case for restricting membership to one sex.

Kim Iwasiuk, who runs Isis, said the club has just one change room, and is not large enough to accommodate men.

Ms. Scarth said the commission might ask if Isis could add another change room or permit men to work out on different days than women. It will also consider how many other health clubs in the area are open to men and whether it poses a real hardship to deny them membership.

But the health club will likely be permitted to remain exclusive.

It's also possible Sassy's will continue as a male bastion.

Although the commission can proceed with an inquiry on its own, it usually takes the complaint of a member of the public to push it into action. And the women of Brandon have, so far, endured the discrimination in silence.

Copyright Southam Inc.