nick strangeway

Safety is paramount for female bar staff

30 March, 2021

Nick Strangeway on the duty of care which bars must have to their female staff and customers.

The story of Sarah Everard has shaken the UK to its core, generating tidal waves of sadness, confusion and anger through almost every aspect of society. Sarah’s tragic murder at the hands of a police officer has not only sparked overdue conversations around gender equality and the safety of women, but ignited protests about sexual harassment which have been fronted by the #TooManyMen movement.

The sexual harassment of women in bars is now the central conversation in the industry, even more so than the pathway out of Covid. Artesian’s Anne Sebastian, through her non-pro­ t organisation Celebrate Her, is leading from the front and calling for the industry to do more to ensure the safety of female staff, particularly when travelling home from work.

 In the past I’ve worked at venues where every member of staff was offered a taxi home each night. Granted, this was back in the ’90s when things were cheaper, but in an ideal world bars would have close relationships with female-only taxi companies, so they can o er not only their staff a safe way home, but reasonable rates for female customers too, perhaps adding the fare to their drinks bill before they leave. Had it not been for the current economic shit storm we’re now facing thanks to Covid, I’d have suggested the government could step in and o er tax breaks on taxi fares to encourage the practice – let’s revisit this in 2045.

In my opinion it’s not the responsibility of a bar to police the streets, but the second someone enters your venue they become your responsibility. Five-star hotel bars invest in training bartenders to use psychology to engage with customers so they spend more money, so similar investment should be put into educating staff to make them feel safe too. There needs to be some kind of authoritative education for bar staff which qualifies them to deal with situations where women feel vulnerable or unsafe in their venue. In the past I’ve had to deal with idiots saying salacious things to members of my bar team and I’ve told them where to go. There should always be a no-tolerance policy towards this misogynistic type of behaviour and I’ve found that equality of staffing plays a signi­ficant role in reducing it. If a venue has an equal split of genders from management to working the floor it sets the tone of the bar, telling your guests what kind of establishment you are.

As an industry we must continue working towards this even ratio of staff and keep the safety of women at the forefront of our minds. The wonderful works of Sebastian and other flag-bearers are giving us the platform to honour the life of Sarah Everard in the best way we can, by ultimately making the bar industry a better, safer place for women.

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