We are just two weeks away from our Safe Space Jam and we have a lot to celebrate this year! We’ve trained 27 Safe Bars, facilitated over 40 workshops, and launched a new program called Rethinking Masculinity. What a year!
Last week, we sat down with two awesome individuals who brought our Safe Bars program to their bars. The program trains and empowers staff at alcohol-serving establishments to recognize and respond to sexual harassment and assault.
Brandy Holder from New Columbia Distillers and Lizzie from DC Brau shared their experiences with the program with us—and why they think Safe Bars is a vital program for their communities.
Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS): How did you get involved with the Safe Bars program?
Brandy Holder (New Columbia Distillers): I thought it was important for our distillery to initiate the training and to become a safe bar. Personally, I have been an advocate of CASS for a few years, and when the distillery received the email a couple of years back to donate to its annual fundraiser, I was the person to set that into motion from the distillery’s standpoint. Since then, I have wanted to keep up-to-date with the organization and try to be a part of it in some way.
CASS: Why was it important for you and the staff at the distillery to take this course?
Lizzie Palumbo (DC Brau): I felt it was important for my team to receive this training because many of them haven’t worked in the service industry before and didn’t have experience in dealing with problematic customer behaviors.
BH: The drive for me wanting to establish New Columbia Distillers as a safe bar was to make Ivy City known as a safe space and to experience the training with not only our distillery crew, but the majority of Ivy City alcohol-makers. New Columbia Distillery has never had any incident of harassment, assault, or any unsafe behavior from any of our patrons and we have been very fortunate with this. Our limited hours and use of space in our distillery definitely works to our advantage for combating that. But personally, as a woman, I experience sexual harassment/catcalling daily and it is disgraceful and uncomfortable.
When I can see an opportunity to make men (and people in general) aware of how much it actually happens, I try to show them. This training was a great way to gather some of the men from not only our distillery, but the other businesses as well, and have everyone talk about it, raise awareness, and learn new ways to notice signs and take action when we see something happening.
CASS: Brandy, you were able to bring a few other companies together for the training as well. What was that experience like?
BH: I was happy to coordinate and bring together One Eight, Jos A. Magnus, Republic Restoratives, and Atlas BrewWorks together for this training. I find it an honor that our industry folks — the people who are making the booze that you drink and who run the establishments in which you imbibe and have fun — want nothing but the best for their patrons. And the best means safe, welcoming, and inclusive attitudes and businesses.
CASS: What outcomes did you see as a result of the program?
BH: I am very fortunate to have wonderful co-workers and the knowledge that all the other distillery/brewery crew are on the same side and will all work together. As a mixed group, we were able to have a great discussion and share our experiences with each other. Some even admitted that stepping up to harassment was harder for them because they do not handle confrontation well, but the training gave us many different ways of handling it, which I think was helpful to everyone. We learned so different ways to intervene: take folks out of the situation without being obvious, and know when to take it to the next step. The training allowed folks to stop and think about it and bring awareness to situations to which they may have previously not given any more than just a fleeting thought.
LP: The training was really useful in establishing what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. It also was a great way to get everyone on the same page as far as how to handle difficult situations that may arise.
Several members of my team have let me know that they have already successfully implemented strategies they learned in the training. I think we all felt empowered by the class. We strive to make DC Brau a safe and inclusive space for everyone who visits, and the Safe Bars training and certification really drives that point home. Being a certified safe bar is a big point of pride for everyone in our company.
We’ll be awarding the BARstander of the Year award at our annual event. Vote for the Safe Bar you think is doing the most to cultivate a safe environment, and get your tickets today!
Editor’s Note: These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.