“If you host your happy hour at a certified Safe Bar, you can rest easy knowing that the bar staff have your back.”

safe bar
Photo by PoPville flickr user Thundercheese

Thanks to a reader for sending:

“Thought this new DC Safe Bars program was interesting.”

Safe Bar’s website says:

“Welcome to Safe Bars! Safe Bars uses innovative bystander education strategies to empower DC-area bar staff to stand up against sexual harassment and assault. We also train people all over the country to start a Safe Bars program where they live.

There are plenty of D.C. bars with great ambiance and killer drink deals to choose from when deciding where to hold your happy hour. So why not choose a bar where your attendees will feel safe, secure, and respected while enjoying that $2-off Hopslam?

If you host your happy hour at a certified Safe Bar, you can rest easy knowing that the bar staff have your back. You’ll also be helping encourage other D.C.-area bars to get Safe Bar-certified!

Complete this form to receive more information about hosting your next happy hour at a Safe Bar.”

47 Comment

  • Great idea – but why are you limiting this to organized groups? What if I’m alone or with a friend and want the same “Safe Bar” access? Why not just publish a list of participating bars?

  • ‘Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.’ We’re clearly at stage 2 (maybe even 3??) when it comes to harassment

  • While the organization’s heart may be in the right place, unless “training” is free this seems like it really is just about marketing. I don’t know how many people would go to safebars.org when choosing a bar, and a sticker on the bar window probably won’t make a difference.

    If I was a bar owner who had to pay hefty liability insurance premiums, one of the last things I would want is an employee confronting a patron unless absolutely necessary. While sexual aggression can very well happen and is bad, if I am going to train employees its going to be on how to deescalate a situation and get someone to leave the bar without hurting anyone. This is more cost-effective as training approach than hiring a company to tell employees about a very specific threat such as sexual aggression.

    • Based on the Churchkey story included, the ‘deescalate and get someone to leave’ method seems to be what the program is advocating as well.

    • This is all about marketing and is distasteful, “innovative bystander education strategies”… unless you really want to tackle how the entire city will provide and uphold a safe space for EVERYONE (race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc).. then no bar staff does not “have my back”. This is also due to the number of safe spaces that are currently diminishing around the city.

      • In my 20+ years of bartending, (80’s – 2000ish) this was just a given in pretty much any bar. We took care of our people. We kept an eye on things, de-escalated conflicts, called in the bouncer when needed, got taxis & took away keys, made sure drunks had someone to get them home. I’m glad there is “new awareness” but it is just sad that anyone thinks “innovative bystander education strategies” is a big new thing. People – just look out for one another.

  • Is this a legit non-profit? I can’t find a 990 for either them or the organizations they say partnered for the effort (CASS and Defend Yourself).

  • I think this sounds promising. Of course, will have to wait to see how it pans out beyond one anecdote – but even if it prevents a few sexual assaults, that seems worthwhile to me. I think the use of an outside party (probably often a male bartender) saying “hey man – doesn’t seem like she’s into having a drink with you” could prove important since the typical bar creep is predisposed to not listening to women – that’s kind of the ‘wont take no for an answer’ MO.

  • justinbc

    Excuse me, I just want to know what bar offers $2 off Hopslam?

  • CASS is also partnering with WMATA on the Metro anti-harassment campaign. As someone who has experienced this on the Metro, I appreciate their work on this very pervasive problem, official non-profit or not.

  • As a woman who has been assaulted after leaving a DC bar, I support this 100%. I’m sure other women (not just survivors) agree that being harassed in a bar can quickly ruin your night out. Am I missing the location where the list of bars is posted? I would make a point to visit every single one.

    • I wonder how much staff can really do to prevent harassment though. In your situation the assault happened outside of the bar. A friend of mine had a creep follow her into the bathroom a few days ago. And there’s the usual groping on the dance floor that happens quickly without anyone else noticing. I guess a patron can complain to the staff who will then ask the harasser to leave, but what else can they do really? I think most bars are already doing these things already.

      • I can see it being helpful when there’s a creep who corners a girl at the bar and just won’t take the hint (subtle or direct) that she’s not interested. I know I’ve been stuck in that kind of situation while waiting for a drink alone if friends are in another part of the bar, or while at the bar alone generally. It seems like the program can help fend off that kind of harassment – the “just one drink, come on! just one dance, come on! Just come over, come on!” kind of guys. It’s the worst when you wish someone around you would notice how desperate you are to escape a conversation but no one does.

        • A girl “cornered at a bar” should NOT be giving “hints.” All she needs to do is say – Stop bothering me. I am not interested. If aggression persists, all she needs to do it speak up to the bartender or manager. No establishment wants patrons to feel threatened or uncomfortable, so I don’t think paying $365.00 to a “non-profit” for a 2 hour awareness class is going to change anything.

      • dcgator

        I don’t understand the confusion. Even if this program helps one more person avoid harassment in some way, it’s done its job.

        • That’s what I’ve been thinking, too. Will bartenders be able to see every groper on a dance floor or notice every guy who follows a woman out/down the street? Certainly not.

          But if it can help SOME women who are being persistently harassed by a guy at the bar shut down his advances and get home, I think that’s a good thing.

        • How much should a bar pay to prevent 1 sexual assault? 2 sexual assaults? 10 dollars seems like a bargain, 100,000 seems like a lot. But, to the person who is avoiding assault, 100,000 paid by someone else seems reasonable.

          I dont think people actually think that bars shouldnt be doing more to prevent sexual assault, or that there isnt a role for nonprofits to play in education and awareness – but what is being alleged is that monetizing sexual assault prevention is the goal here. I dont really know enough to understand if there are ulterior/revenue motives.

          With that said, why cant the nonprofit publish the list of bars it works with? Why have this weird group happy hour arrangement? This is a nonprofit arrangement Im not familiar with.

          Above all else, why are there gropings on dance floors and women being sexual harassed and followed around in and around bars? It blows my mind that this is actually happening. It starts and ends with bar going men making the conscious decision to think “does this seem creepy?” and if yes, just abstain.

          This shit happens all the time! The bars can only play so much of a role in prevention – really the men just need to stop being creeps/degenerates.

          I am a man and I feel that with some scenarios there’s too much rush to always characterize men as the aggressors and women as the victim – but, the bar based/street based drunk harassing is ubiquitous and 99.99999% perpetrated by men. And, these drunk turds are problems for everyone – because the same ones who are gropers/stalkers/intimidaters are oftentimes doing a whole host of other uncivil, antisocial activities to/against their fellow bar clientele/late night population.

          We finally rid bars of smoking, it would be great if the ubiquitous asshole with a problem respecting others would finally be eradicated in bars as well.

          • justinbc

            Bars can’t prevent guys from being creeps, but they can’t attest that they’ll deal with them if alerted. I think that’s basically the premise?

          • justinbc

            Although it does make me wonder if there’s some sort of burden of proof required, or if the bartender has to physically witness the creepiness himself. How does it work if the woman is the one harassing? Or in a same-sex situation?

          • I frequent bars and I have a lot of friends who frequent bars.

            I’ve never in my life heard of a woman engaging in such repeated unwanted and aggressive advances that it would warrant any label relate to “harassment”. I think it fits in a category of so uncommon athat its incidence is statistically insignificant and therefore not germane to this conversation.

          • justinbc

            I’ve not only seen it happen, but had it happen to me, more than once, ironically at ChurchKey of all places. Men aren’t the only ones who get drunk and think they’re more alluring/irresistible than they really are.

          • “Bars can’t prevent guys from being creeps, but they can’t attest that they’ll deal with them if alerted. I think that’s basically the premise?”
            I thought most bars did this anyway. If they get a complaint about someone they make them leave or at least try to reason with them.
            There’s a story on the CASS blog about a Safe Bar dealing with a harassing patron, and their solution was to help the woman sneak out while he was in the bathroom. That’s not an ideal solution IMO. I’ve been in that situation before (and was perfectly capable of sneaking myself out while the guy was preoccupied) and I’m always resentful that I was the one that had to leave. Furthermore, the bartender had to pay attention to body language between the two people to make the call that the woman needed rescuing. I think most bartenders would be too busy or too far away to be able to do that.

          • I’m sorry that the details of the program aren’t clear. We will publish a list of the bars who have completed the program it’s. It will be on the website soon. Feel free to check out safebars.org to see the list, or email me if you have more questions. Lauren at safe bars.org

      • Knowing that I can go to a bar where the bartenders will have my back is good enough. This program wouldn’t have prevented what happened to me or to your friend. But it might allow me (and others) to have the freedom to go out again without panicking every time a stranger touches my shoulder.

      • I also don’t understand the benefit of this program. I’ve worked in a restaurant/bar and employees are usually trained to inform management immediately if there are problematic patrons. Usually managers are the only ones who can approach these people. I would think there must be some sort of liability measurements in place that prevent regular employees from handling these types of issues, especially with corporate establishments. Many establishments have security personnel as well. I agree with Anon above. I think most bars/clubs are already operating with an abundance of caution and kicking out the problematic patrons. There is just too much liability if something bad were to happen in their establishment.

    • jessicaraven

      Hi there!

      We actually just re-launched the program in May, and we’re still working to expand the list of bars that have been trained. Currently, the list is: The Heights, Hank’s Oyster Bar (both trained during the pilot phase); Sudhouse, Churchkey, and Birch & Barley. We also recently partnered with District Karaoke to train bars like Mackey’s. We’ll publish the list soon! We’re very excited about the promising results at ChurchKey since the training May, and we’re also really excited about the media coverage, especially since we haven’t even had a chance to send out a press release yet.

      Please do sign up for our email list (on the right) to get info about Safe Bars: http://safebars.org

      Thanks so much for your support, and I hope we’ll be able to help make your nights out safer!!

      Jessica Raven, CASS Executive Director and Safe Bars partner

      • Jessica, could you respond to the allegations presented below by obmudsman? It would be terrifically informative as people try to better understand your mission as you’ve tried to elevate your visibility these last few days.

  • As a business owner who has fielded solicitations from CASS, I can assure you that this “program” is a thinly veiled racket that is more concerned with filling the coffers of the organization than actually protecting women. The fact that I have seen media mentions for this on multiple sites today only speaks to a coordinated (and paid for) PR effort, not an organic grassroots desire to effect any real change.

    • …wait, so there shouldn’t be a coordinated media effort to publicize this? No media=grassroots, promotion=astroturf?

      I honestly don’t know anything about this program, but the above comment was pretty silly.

    • “business owner … thinly veiled racket … concerned with filling the coffers of the organization”
      .
      So, what business do you own that allows you to not seek to fill the coffers of your organization? Must be nice!

      • My point is I own a legitimate business and CASS’s model involves shaking down said businesses . Their pitch is based on a straw man that implies that if you don’t employ their services, then you therefore support sexual predators. There are a lot of opportunistic people out there, and based on my experience with their sales pitch, the principals of this organization do not pass the smell test. If you run a tight ship, and you’ve achieved something in this country, you shouldn’t have to give a handout to someone else to validate what you already know to be true – and you shouldn’t risk having your reputation maligned should you choose to maintain some level of independence in your business.

        I was told point blank by their principal that my business was not a safe place because I chose not to pay for their services – there is no difference in CASS’ approach than the way the mafia runs their protection rackets, and they choose to do so under the cover of altruism, so no one will call them on their racket.

        • That sounds incredibly obnoxious.

          • It actually sounds incredibly true. A group – “non-profit” or otherwise sets themselves up as the arbitrator of – fill in the blank – cause, then establishes criteria for businesses. There is an understood threat that by not complying, you are put on the “Naughty list” or at least left off of the “good list.”

            I am not implying, and there is absolutely no indication here that “Safe Bars” is extorting money from bars to be “credited” into their program. But by publishing a list of “safe bars” they are certainly implying that non-participating bars are unsafe.

        • justinbc

          Sounds a lot like the Yelp marketing folks.

        • Ombudsman, hi I’m Lauren and I’ve been involved in so far as since its conception. I’d love to hear who you talk to who you felt was dealing with you in this improper way. I think there’s a possibility that you were talking to safe bars, as thats certainly not our approach. I I would like to hear more about the interaction, and if it was one of us get your feedback so we can make sure it never happens again. Thanks Lauren Lauren at safe bars.org

    • I just looked all over their website and can find no mention of what they charge bar owners to “participate.” I did just send an email inquiry, so we’ll see.

    • jessicaraven

      Hi ombudsman,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m not sure if you’ve received solicitations within the past year, but if not, I’d like you to know first that we are under new management and just finished a promotional period encouraging bars to get trained for free and see the benefit of the program before we started to charge a fee for our work. This week, we are starting to ask for a fee to compensate trainers for their time and expertise in addressing sexual harassment and preventing assault.

      We have actually not paid for a PR effort – in fact, we haven’t even gotten our press release out yet! We were contacted by the Huffington Post last week after this amazing success story that a ChurchKey bar staff shared on our blog: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/2016/07/10/its-important-for-our-bar-to-be-a-safe-space/. We’re also thankful to the reader who shared the news about our program with Prince of Petworth. We do hope to get our press release out soon, but as a mostly volunteer-powered organization, we don’t have the capacity to market all of our programs to the level we wish we could! So we’ll go ahead and take the comment that our PR seems coordinated and paid for as a compliment. Thanks!

      I saw your comment below as well that you were told point blank that your bar was not a safe space. I’m sorry that you had this experience.

      We created this program in partnership with Defend Yourself in response to many stories of sexual harassment and assault shared on our blog after incidents at local bars.

      Here are some of the stories we’ve received:
      – Town Hall: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/2016/03/21/what-happened-at-town-hall/
      – Grand Central: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/2012/08/01/i-just-wanted-to-get-away/
      – Grand Central again: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/2012/11/13/6965/
      – Tropicalia: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/our-work/policy/star-silva-testimony-joint-public-roundtable-on-street-harassment-in-the-district-of-columbia/

      We hope that those bars will step up to address the very real safety concerns that patrons have expressed about their establishments, and we’d love to see safety become the standard at every bar.

      If you’d like to email me, I’d be happy to hear more about your experience and talk about how we can work together to make local bar culture safer: [email protected].

      Thanks so much again,
      Jessica Raven, CASS Executive Director

  • So to be “certified” a “safe bar” a bar owner pays $365.00 for a two hour training session. That is the official reply to my inquiry.

    • I’m sorry that the details of the program aren’t clear. We will publish a list of the bars who have completed the program it’s. It will be on the website soon. Feel free to check out safebars.org to see the list, or email me if you have more questions. Lauren at safe bars.org

    • Hi Victoria, Lauren here. I hear that you have some concerns about our approach. I’m curious to understand them better. I’m at I’d love to talk with you and share more about what we’re doing. You can reach me at Lauren at safe bars.org. I look forward to speaking with you!

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