Keeping safe on your night out: Bartenders trained to spot, deter inappropriate behavior

Phillip Palmer Image
Monday, August 8, 2022
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The Safe Bar Network helps train bar staff on recognizing and deterring behavior that may make some customers feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It's almost expected that people go to bars to find somebody, but that environment can lead to unwanted behavior.

A study in Canada showed, of more than 1,000 incidents recorded, 25% involved unwanted sexual behavior. It also showed staff intervened in only 10 of 258 aggressive incidents.

William Kragel works in the food and beverage industry at 101 Cider House in downtown Los Angeles and is well aware of the problems.

"I can pull a million examples from partying and stuff, seeing these things happen, but didn't really know what to do," he said.

The Safe Bar Network is trying to change that.

"Any time you are grouping people together there will be problems. And if you're not intentionally setting culture, culture will be set," says Haleigh Harrold, executive director for The Safe Bar Network.

Founded in January 2020, The Safe Bar Network provides training sessions across 17 states, similar to one provided at 101 Cider House, training staff to recognize a problem and the tools to safely help.

"The difference between a bar that's not safe and people are harmed at or harmed when they leave and a bar where people feel safe and comfortable and have a great time, absolutely is the staff," says Harrold.

Through conversation with each other and instruction from experts, staff learns when to intervene and the best ways to de-escalate uncomfortable interactions by using "active bystander techniques." Do something direct, get others to help like friends or coworkers, or try to talk about something else.

Kragel was happy with what he learned, "It was an incredible learning experience on the de-escalation side because, again, I have the personality of just stepping in. It might end worse, but I'm gonna stop it. Whereas there's other ways to handle these things."

Beyond the safety benefits of proper training, there is a business element to consider.

Research shows one of the most common ways women escape unwanted attention is to simply leave the bar. "I want our customers to come to this tap room, feel like they're in a safe space and they're going to want to come back," says manager Jennifer Garcia of 101 Cider House.

Teaching the idea that no one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something. Help is also available at the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673 and online at www.rainn.org.