Men Behaving Badly

He-man woman-haters at the Phoenix Country Club? Say it ain't so!

And here's the dirty little secret of the Men's Grill.

They let women in there, all right. Women who can't afford membership.

The women at the Men's Grill are waitresses — servers, in the politically correct parlance.

Mark Andresen

Location Info


Phoenix Country Club

2901 N. Seventh St.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

Category: Sports and Recreation

Region: Central Phoenix

I'm beginning to see why the good old boys at the Phoenix Country Club reacted so angrily to suggestions they provide their female membership with equality. The Men's Grill may be one of the few remaining vestiges of a time when men did the deals and women served the drinks.

That era isn't dying only because most guys these days would rather buy us a glass of vino than huddle without us. As the Van Sitterts' attorney, David Bodney, wrote in his complaint, country clubs in Massachusetts, California, and Louisiana have had to abandon similarly segregated facilities after lawsuits — and, in Massachusetts, after an appeals court upheld a $2 million jury verdict. That club's policy was strikingly similar to the one at PCC.

Now, the Phoenix Country Club isn't the only spot in town with a restaurant for men only. The Paradise Valley Country Club, which has a less-progressive record on race and religion, has one, too.

The legal question is whether or not these clubs are "public accommodations" under the law. Private clubs can make their own rules. "Public accommodations" have to treat everyone equally.

It seems like a no-brainer. With entry fees of up to $70,000, PCC seems private by definition. But it's not that easy. Other country clubs have been found to be public accommodations simply because they open their doors to outsiders or rent out their conference rooms. As Bodney argues, the Phoenix Country Club hosts a number of events for outsiders, including, in the 1990s, the Maricopa County Democratic Party. It could ultimately qualify.

If it's a public accommodation, the club will have no choice but to move with the times — or, more accurately, to move just a few decades behind them.

If it's a private club, well, the men over at PCC can keep their splendid isolation.

Established more than 100 years ago, long before central Phoenix was the hub of a giant metropolis, the Phoenix Country Club isn't that expensive, by today's standards. It has none of the new-money glitz of the Paradise Valley Country Club, just a certain functional, sporty prettiness.

What it has is an enviable roster of names. The late Barry Goldwater was once a member; so was former Governor Bruce Babbitt. Today, Dennis Burke, chief of staff for Governor Janet Napolitano, can dine in the Men's Grill. So can Jerry Colangelo and, believe it or not, that renowned golfer Alice Cooper.

Beyond the whole "private club" argument, the members' answer to the charge of segregation is, as far as answers go, a classic. Think Plessy v. Ferguson, separate but equal. You know the drill: The Men's Grill may ban women at all times but Sunday evenings, but only women can eat at the Women's Grill blah blah blah.

Problem is, the Women's Grill is a lot less cool. Even the male members, if they're being honest, will tell you that.

The Men's Grill has a patio. The Women's Grill doesn't.

The Men's Grill has three high-definition TVs. The Women's Grill has none.

And, while the Men's Grill has a bar, the Women's Grill doesn't. You can still drink there — on a recent day, when I poked my head in, there were a few groups of hens playing bridge and drinking Manhattans. But it's a much different atmosphere.

Stephen W. Myers, a member who supports the Van Sitterts, spelled all this out in a letter to the board of directors in April. As Myers wrote, even as a woman may be paying up to $70,000 for a membership in the club — plus monthly dues of $570 — she's not allowed in the Men's Grill.

Meanwhile, a guy paying for a cheaper "clubhouse membership," which starts as low as $500, is in.

"This seems particularly arbitrary," Myers writes. "In this instance, the club's practice is akin to requiring a female member to pay the same price as a male for a first-class airline ticket, but solely because she is female, she can only be seated in business class."

The question of whether that's legal now lies in the hands of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. (His spokeswoman declined comment.)

It's hard to imagine Goddard can win on this one. If he ignores the situation, he'll undoubtedly face speculation that he's a toady of the powerful lawyers with club membership. One of them, it should be noted, is Goddard's closest political ally, Don Bivens, the presumed soon-to-be-chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.

But if Goddard takes on the civil rights complaint, he may have a bigger mess on his hands: taxpayers wondering why the attorney general doesn't have bigger things to worry about.

And I can't imagine the club would accept any legal determination meekly. The board of directors has certainly shown its willingness to fight back so far. It's also hired Gallagher & Kennedy — the same firm that helped Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien evade jail time for his hit-and-run — to defend its private club status. Maledon, the board president, says he doesn't want to get into any of the details of the fracas, but assures me that "we're going to resist." Based on the club's actions so far, I have no doubt he's serious about that.

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I say who cares - if the men want to have a "men's club" - let them - where do I sign my husband up? I think men need "male bonding" time - just as women need their "girls night outs". Isn't there more to worry about in this world?

Maureen Olson
Maureen Olson

I'm surprised you didn't mention that the Van Sitterts' attorney, David Bodney, used to be the Editor of Phoenix New Times years ago. Shouldn't this have been mentioned in the interest of full disclosure? Especially when a "mystery" package of documents arrives at the New Times offices, readers should know the attorney's connection to the paper, no?


I have to agree with the first commenter; that's exactly what went through my mind. There are women-only gyms, and many other women-only establishments and groups, yet none of these supposed "equalitarians" have a problem with that. The only time they care is if it is male-only. As the saying goes, they want everything to be equal, as long as they are a little more "equal" than men. Pshaw!


I am a 49 year old female and I am sickened at times by the actions of women in the name of "equal rights" - give me a break ladies - go form your own club and leave the mens club as it is. There is nothing wrong with men and women having thier own separate places to socialize. Jeez, when will this stop ?


Separate but equal really isn't equal at all, right? I don't think it would matter if the women's grill was exactly the same or not.


Seconded. To be perfectly honest, they don't bother me at all. Except when I'm attempting to find a job at a gym and 3/4 of the ads specify "women only". Much like the old "No Irish Need Apply" signs, don't you think? Ignorant hyperbole, of course.

Which is what your article consists of.


I'll start caring about this around the time you also write an article decrying the 'women only' gyms in the valle.y


"The Men's Grill may be one of the few remaining vestiges of a time when men did the deals and women served the drinks."

Sarah Fenske: I am a woman born in 1948. Welcome to having to figure out, all over again, why a place like the Men's Grill at PCC is where you can enjoy butting your head against the glass ceiling over and over again... And where Bob Brightwhiteteeth will be introduced to Jerry Colangelo or any other mover and shaker and will get to show what a team player he is and where the deal will be struck to hire him instead of you. This kind of crap goes on all the time and you can bet that more than one woman in Phoenix has lost her chance for career advancement in favor of some good old boy getting a leg up over an equally qualified woman.


While I certainly don't agree with the tactics I just don't get why men cant have a place of their own. I mean has there ever been a guy at Curves Fitness? It states right on the front page of their web site "Dedicated to women's fitness..." and how many womens only spas and gyms are there? If the women want a place to call their own they have every right to open their own, and if it isn't as cool as the mens place who's fault is that? I am all for womens rights, but cant a guy just be a guy at a guys place without having a 2 drink minimum and a stripper pole in the middle? I would think women would rather it be a country club than having us see Bambi shake her tits for for a fistful of dollar bills.


He we go with another female poo-pooing another "guys group". Anytime men have something exclusive to them and want to keep it that way the ladies just can't wait to jump in and make them all seem like a bunch of immature, sexist cavemen. Like another comment before everywhere you go nowadays there are women only clubs, groups, organizations, etc. and I don't see the guys clamoring to get in. Even the gym I go to has a "women only" workout room and you don't see me crying at the front desk because I'm not welcome in there. Men need fraternity and I don't see the harm in a little exclusivity. Like the author said, women reporters even go to the men's locker room now for crying out loud. Is there ANYWHERE men can go to be with men? Let the boys have their clubs, god knows the girls got plenty of theirs.


i love people watching, especially of the female type (except for a nagging wife/girlfriend) i don't get the rule no dames aloud. but what's up with , womens workout world, and all the other LADIES ONLY CLUBSnational negro college fund and all the other BLACK ONLY CLUBS, Asian American Assoc., the point is sometimes whoever you maybe you "NOT WANTED!!!"GET OVER IT!

francine hardaway
francine hardaway

Go Barbara and Logan from Francine, Sam and Chelsea. We all knew each other in the 60s and 70s, when John Hardaway and I belonged to the club. Francine tried to do this in the 70s and got her ass kicked out of the club. Keep fighting!!!!!!! I'm so sorry John isn't alive to see this...

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