Steve Horner, go back to your corner. Eight years ago, members of this city’s bar/restaurant industry felt like they were being held hostage by Steve Horner. The onetime radio personality/self-published author had filed one of the first major claims that ladies’ nights were discriminatory in his home state of Minnesota, then filed several more complaints around the country before he landed in Denver, where his first target was the Fresh Fish Company.
Before he was done here, he’d also filed complaints against several other local businesses, including the bar where I first interviewed Horner and Westword itself, arguing that ads we’d run for ladies’-night specials amounted to discrimination. In August 2008, Denver County Judge Brian Campbell dismissed that case — but not before Horner had been featured on a segment of The Daily Show, complete with comparisons to Rosa Parks and Jesus Christ.
Horner, who now lives in Utah, learned last month that his most recent Colorado complaint, filed against Brewski's Pub & Grill in Thornton, where he’d encountered a ladies’ night when he was passing through town last June, had gotten a “no probable cause” determination from the Civil Rights Division of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. "I conclude from our investigation that there is not sufficient evidence to supporting the Charging Party's claims of discrimination," wrote interim director Jennifer McPherson in her determination. “The evidence indicates that the poster advertising special pricing for female customers on Wednesdays did not indicate that men would be excluded from attending on Wednesdays. To the contrary, the Respondent states that the intent of the promotion and its advertisement thereof was not to exclude men, but rather to draw both men and women...”
Horner, who had another recent effort in Las Vegas fall flat, has ten days to appeal the Colorado ruling or ninety days to file a civil action — but right now, he sounds like he could be done with the fight. “I might just be out of gas here,” he says. “Open up the floodgates and party — and screw discrimination. Let’s just prosecute those who need prosecuting based on our prejudice and bias.”
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Because he's Steve Horner, he says a lot more, of course, much of it having to do with "people who can't understand normal thinking," and the acronym for those kind of people just happens to be the title of one of his books: C.U.N.T., "a candid look at many afflictions most Americans are afraid to discuss." (You can see more about his work here.)
Horner accuses McPherson of failing to use normal thinking (although he does it a lot more colorfully) in reaching her determination. But she says she's just followed the law in all the recent cases her division has had to handle, involving everything from same-sex wedding cakes to queries regarding the White Appreciation Day that Rubbin' Butz BBQ in Milliken had planned to hold on June 11.
Rufina Hernández (a familiar face from the Colorado Inside Out panel where I'm a regular) was just named director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Although Horner says he might be done with his crusade, we have the sneaking suspicion that she might be hearing from him...