Bridal shop in bias case says it even lets men try on dresses
A few years ago the owner of a bridal shop got very excited and annoyed when I took some photographs of her shop window. At the time she claimed that her window display was projected by copyright ... I now wonder if that was the real reason.
A BRIDAL shop which won a discrimination case taken against it after refusing entry to a groom-to-be has denied being biased against men -- and says it even allows male customers to try on dresses if they want to.
The owners of The Bridal Studio in Drogheda, Co Louth, said they have one man who "avails of this service" and that when he is in the store they do not allow women inside.
Groom Thomas Blaney took a case against the shop under the Equal Status Act after he was refused entry while he accompanied his fiancee Annette on a visit to the shop to find her a wedding dress on August 13, 2005.
He had just stepped into the shop when a sales assistant moved towards him and put one hand up and said he could not come in as they did not allow entry to men.
Mr Blaney told an equality tribunal he was "aghast" at this and told the assistant the shop would hear further about the matter. He told the hearing that if someone had given him an explanation at the time, or had made some effort to "defuse" the situation, he might not have made the complaint.
Shop owners Geraldine Doyle and Ashley Alwright told the tribunal Mr Blaney was told to leave because a bride was being fitted for her dress in the middle of the shop and that she might have been embarrassed by his presence.
They said two female customers were in the shop at the time and that both had made appointments, which was normal for a Saturday. One of the prospective brides was standing in the middle of the shop floor in a dress that didn't fit her.
They said the first response of the sales assistant was to "protect" the bride from embarrassment. The tribunal heard that it was the shop's policy to not admit men when female customers were having fittings as they would be in a state of undress.
Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Ms Doyle said: "Traditionally when girls come in to a bridal shop, the dresses are in sample sizes so you might have a girl who is a size 16, 20 or 24 in a dress that is only a size 14. By the very nature of this she is left exposed so we do try to keep it as private as possible.
"We have since moved to a new shop that has two bridal rooms that are bigger so the bride can have her daddy or her brother or anyone she likes there with her," she added.
Delivering his judgment, equality officer Gary O'Doherty referred to a similar case earlier this year in which a tribunal awarded a man €1,500 in compensation against a bridal shop after it refused him entry. But, unlike this case, the Swords shop, in north Dublin, had a "blanket ban" on males.
Mr O'Doherty said The Bridal Studio operates a policy whereby men are welcomed so long as their presence would not cause embarrassment to female customers and that women are excluded when male customers are being served. He therefore found that Mr Blaney was not discriminated against.
- Breda Heffernan