The Good Will sets the bar with new anti-discrimination 'house rules'

One of Winnipeg’s busiest new venues has posted a new set of rules this week, warning anyone who comes in that racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments could get you kicked out.

Portage Avenue bar The Good Will posts anti-discrimination rules for staff, customers

The Good Will posted a new set of "house rules" this week, warning anyone who stops by that racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments could get you kicked out. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

One of Winnipeg’s busiest new venues has posted a new set of rules this week, warning anyone who stops by that racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments could get you kicked out.

The Good Will tacked up a set of rules across from their coffee bar on Thursday, telling customers, “We hope people of all genders, ages, cultures and sexualities feel welcome here. As such, any form of discrimination will not be tolerated.”

“When we first started this place three months ago we really wanted to be an inclusive space where everyone felt welcome,” said Tim Hoover, the bar’s general manager and part owner.

“People who know us and know what we were about know that’s what we wanted to do, but we wanted to formalize it – just so it was up on the wall, and if there ever was an incident, we could always refer to the house rules and say, ‘Hey that’s not cool.’”

Hoover said the bar’s owners had plans to make the policy from day one. The rules also ban bullying, sexual harassment and fatphobic or ableist comments.

“A friend of ours, Jodie Layne, came in and gave training for all our staff,” said Hoover. “We got a sort of a toolkit from her on how to approach a situation, how to diffuse it without being judgey or too intense -- just diffusing situations in a calm and respectful manner.”

From sexism to school-yard bullying

In the past few months, several local bars have been called out on social media over sexist comments and posters.

The Pint was torn apart on Twitter for a poster that showed a woman bent over, baring her butt.

The Handsome Daughter also drew criticism shortly after it opened last year for a sexist comment scrawled on a sandwich board. Owners quickly erased the message and apologized for it.
The Good Will is a coffee bar and venue open seven days a week in the 600 block of Portage Avenue. (Instagram)

“I’ve worked in bars and this stuff happens. It’s a really serious issue that needs to be addressed and needs to have a zero-tolerance policy,” said Korrie Richardson, a server at The Good Will.

Richardson, who’s worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years, said it’s not uncommon to hear sexist comments from staff or basic school-yard level bullying from customers at other restaurants.

“You hear some things coming from certain staff members or certain areas of the restaurant and you kind of just build up this wall for it and just [say] ‘Okay, this is just part of the day,’” she said. “Even style of clothing – people who look a certain way. We express ourselves through our clothing and through the way we look and that’s something we shouldn’t be told not to do or ridiculed [for].”

And while it may seem redundant to have to lay out rules asking people to respect each other – Richardson says it’s a big change from other places she's worked.

“I always feel completely safe here and always welcome,” she said. “I’ve never had policies like this where I’ve worked before … I think these rules should be everywhere.”

‘This should just be the standard’

Jodie Layne, who directs Safer Spaces Winnipeg, was brought in to train all The Good Will staff on how to enforce the policy.

“Sure a policy and words are great and nice, but unless you’re actually going to be able to do something about it, then it doesn’t really mean anything,” said Layne. “Having the staff trained is just the natural next step, and all the guys were really excited about doing it.”
The Good Will's owners approached Jodie Layne of Safe Spaces Winnipeg to get training for all their staff on how to enforce the house rules. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

Layne said people who raise concerns at bars usually just want to be heard and the situation dealt with.

“In most cases, we find that people don’t want the person to be automatically kicked out,” she said. “Kicking somebody out doesn’t help educate them as to what they did wrong or what they could do better next time … We’re trying to create the space for people to know better so they can do better.”

Layne says similar policies are often in place at festivals – like Manitoba’s Rainbow Trout Music Festival – but more bars need to get on board.

“I think it’s super important to acknowledge that what they’ve done is a really good thing … They took the initiative to come to me … it really is coming from [the nine owners],” she said. “This should just be the standard. They’re just setting the bar … and I think that is something I hope comes out of this.”


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