The licensee of the pub, Bianca McDonald, told news.com.au the sign is intended to be “creative and funny”, and a “light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek” way to attract more women into the venue.
But this is not the view of some Sydney residents, with members of the Facebook group “Inner West Mums” outraged over the signage. A post about the sign in the group received over 100 comments, including one stating: “It’s offensive and wrong. How do I explain it to my two daughters?”
Other unhappy customers took to the venue’s Facebook page to leave scathing reviews.
“What sort of message does this place send to both men and women by advertising “hot girls eat free”? I’m sure you could easily achieve your business goals without degrading women or encouraging men to do the same,” wrote one reviewer.
McDonald said the bartending staff do not discriminate against women for being “hot” or not, instead making a joke of the process.
“The joke is that when a girl comes to the bar the bar girls um and ah about whether she passes the test of the urban definition of ‘hot’, then after some deliberation (about five seconds) they pass the test and get a free meal with any drink purchase,” McDonald said.
The pub came under new ownership in June, and has previously received complaints about its decision to open a separate “gentleman’s club”, called the Strip Inn.
James Olson, events promotion manager for the Petersham Inn, told SmartCompanythe pub didn’t expect the sign to attract so much attention.
“The majority of people think it’s funny, but it’s a case of the vocal minority drowning out all the supporters,” Olson says.
“We’ve had people come in and high five us over the sign, all the guys think it’s funny.”
Olson says the board the sign is on changes monthly to promote the pub’s different events, and the offer had been placed there as an introductory offer due to the recent management change.
“It’s still up at the moment, but we’ll take it down as soon as we get the poster for next month’s events,” Olson says.
Prior to the backlash, the pub had only seen three women take advantage of the offer, but Olson says six women came in yesterday to claim their free meal.
Michelle Gamble, marketing expert and founder of Marketing Angels, toldSmartCompany the pub is taking a risk with the “offensive slogan.”
“When you put up a sign like that in a public space, people walking by can’t unsee it,” Gamble says.
“It’s an offensive slogan, and it objectifies women and promotes disrespect.”
Gamble believes the pub did not intend to attract publicity with the sign, believing management’s motive was instead to get more men into the venue.
“The intention was to attract more women to attract more men to buy drinks, I don’t think publicity was the main factor,” Gamble says.
“An apology won’t fix this, and I don’t believe they would be inclined to apologise either. The venue needs to look at fixing its policy and its understanding of women.
“Women are 50 percent of the population, so they’ll be missing out on a lot of business.”