A restaurant that declared it would charge men 18% more than women for the same service will close its doors at the end of the month.
Handsome Her, a vegan café in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, will close its doors on April 28, writing on Facebook that the two women responsible for running the business “are off to our next adventure up north where we will be doing some hands-on work, something we have missed sorely whilst being at 206 Sydney Rd, Brunswick.”
There is no indication that the restaurant is closing as a result of charging men more than women – a policy that was implemented back when the restaurant opened and only applied one week a month.
As the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2017, when Handsome Her made headlines for its charge-men-more policy, the café posted a chalkboard outside with three rules:
House Rules, Rule #1: women have priority seating. Rule #2: men will be charged an 18% premium to reflect the gender pay gap (2016) which is donated to a women's service. Rule #3 respect goes both ways.
The question naturally arose as to how an establishment can claim to respect both genders when it is clearly discriminating against one.
The wage gap in Australia, as in the United States, comes not from discrimination (though that’s not to say discrimination never happens) but from the different choices men and women make in their careers. Women tend to go into lower-paying fields or positions that offer more flexibility – leading to fewer hours worked. Women also tend to leave the workforce to have children. The “wage” gap does not compare the actual earnings of men and women working the exact same job, but the average earnings of men and women across all jobs and industries.
Yet activists, like those at the Handsome Her café, use the difference in average earnings to claim women are not treated equally in society, or are undervalued.
In announcing the café’s closing, owners also announced a “last hurrah” to be held on April 28. The event will offer “a pay as you feel scheme from 3pm until our stock runs out for all food items on both our day and night menus (think rice bowls, steamed buns, jackfruit burgers etc)…” The proceeds of the event will be donated to Maiti Nepal, an organization works to prevent human trafficking, specifically in Nepal.
In addition to a policy of charging men more, Handsome Her also wrote in its farewell note that it “tried to demonstrate ways of doing business more ethically and responsibly by abandoning take-away cups, single use straws and napkins, by shopping locally and supporting women owned businesses.”
The business said it donated to multiple feminist causes and “strived to bring lesbianism back into fashion.”
“While it is a shame to lose the physical space (and we understand how essential it is for women and lesbians to hold space), we leave knowing that the communities we have made transcend the trendy vegan café on Sydney Rd, Brunswick. We look forward to continuing Handsome Her in a variety of other, more creative ways and expanding our efforts to drive change with flexibility and mobility throughout Australia,” the owners wrote.