'It's time': Women hoping to make Halifax's bars safer
'When you're a server, you're constantly on the front lines,' Kelly Costello says
The Halifax-based Ladies Beer League wants to make the city's bars safer for women.
On Thursday evening for International Women's Day, the group is hosting a fundraising event for the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre with the hopes of raising awareness about sexualized violence in the hospitality industry.
The two organizations are partnering to bring the Safe Bars initiative to Halifax this summer.
"We hope to create places for people to go to feel safe and be themselves, enjoy themselves, have drinks and just be who they want to be — and have a safe place to do so," said Emily Dexter with the Ladies Beer League.
"Safe Bars uses an innovative bystander education to teach bar staff ways to intervene and stop dangerous situations before they happen."
Safe Bars started in Washington, D.C., after a series of sexual assaults in the area. The organization now travels around the United States to help bar staff learn how to stand up against sexual violence.
Dee Dooley, regional capacity co-ordinator and community educator with Avalon, said the idea came about after similar training was done for volunteers at Halifax Pop Explosion.
"It's talking about strategies to prevent sexualized violence against customers but also staff who are working in these venues and often subject to that type of behaviour themselves," Dooley said.
"It's often relegated to being 'part of the job,' but it's not."
Dooley said Halifax will be the first Canadian city implementing the Safe Bars initiative.
'You're constantly on the front lines'
Kelly Costello, who's also with the Ladies Beer League, said when she works in the brewing industry she's always felt "generally respected."
But now that she's doing more serving, Costello said things are different.
"When you're a server, you're constantly on the front lines, you could call it," she said.
"People get inappropriate, people get very friendly, boundaries and inhibitions definitely drop with every pint. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself, and sometimes you don't even feel safe standing up for yourself."
Costello said with the Time's Up and #MeToo movements, it's a discussion that needs to happen in the service industry as well.
"Women have claimed the room to talk about it, so now we're talking about it and all sharing and looking out for each other. You can't ignore it. You can no longer ignore it," she said.
"So, time's up. It's time."
Thursday's event at the Timber Lounge starts at 5 p.m. and will feature a panel discussion of female brewers, bartenders and industry leaders.