Darn it: Man loses human rights claim over nightclub’s refusal to let him wear one sock

A man who claimed his human rights were violated by a Cairns nightclub that refused him entry because he was only wearing a sock on his right foot has had his case dismissed by a Queensland tribunal.

May 07, 2021, updated May 07, 2021

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found there was no unlawful discrimination against Melbourne man Peter Paris when he was barred from entering Gilligan’s nightclub in June 2018 after security guards saw he was not wearing a shoe on his right foot.

Paris, who said he could not wear shoes on each foot because of a physical impairment, complained the refusal was in breach of Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination legislation.

He told QCAT that he suffered from “regional pain syndrome” but enjoyed dancing at nightclubs as a form of therapy and had been allowed entry to nightclubs at other times, including Gilligan’s, when he was on crutches.

He produced a letter to the tribunal from Melbourne’s Crown Casino stating that he was allowed entry to its nightclub provided he was wearing a sock with a “reinforced” sole on his foot.

In his judgement, QCAT member Paul Kanowski said that while Paris acknowledged the club’s concern about injuries from broken glass, he told the tribunal that “he has never encountered broken glass in the night club at the Crown”.

“He acknowledged, however, differences in the clientele. He described patrons at the Crown as well-behaved. Gilligan’s is located at a backpackers’ resort, and the patrons tend to get ‘a bit wild’.”

“However, he does not think that glass would be a problem. Mr Paris said he does not drink alcohol, and so he would notice any broken glass. He would report it and move away from it.”

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However, the company that operates Gilligan’s, Cairns Bed and Bar, produced a brief from health and safety advisers Salus and George insisting that it was reasonable for all club patrons to wear shoes at all times to avoid the possibility of injury.

This was backed up by Gilligan’s director Fiona Wone, who told the tribunal that the club was busy with a capacity of 1975 people.

Kanowski said that while it was not in dispute that Paris could not wear a shoe on his right foot due to his impairment and that he did not want to be denied an enjoyable pastime because of it, he had failed to prove that Gilligan’s had breached his human rights by refusing him entry.

“Accordingly, I find that the company did not engage in indirect discrimination, as that term is explained in the Anti-Discrimination Act,” he said.

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