City working to require sexual assault intervention training for some staff at local bars

photo by: Chris Conde

Lawrence City Hall is pictured in September 2018.

City leaders have indicated they are interested in requiring that at least some staff at bars and other businesses that serve alcohol be trained to recognize and intervene in sexual harassment and assault.

As part of its meeting last week, the Lawrence City Commission asked city staff to draft an ordinance that would make sexual assault intervention training mandatory for certain drinking establishment managers, beginning in about a year. The draft will come back for further consideration at a later date, at which time the commission will also discuss the requirements for the training and how the training will be funded.

The city issues a local license to drinking establishments, which is in addition to the state liquor license, and city legal staff has said the city could require certain training as a condition of the local license.

This is the second discussion the city has had about potentially requiring the training. In October, the commission received a presentation from city legal staff regarding a potential requirement that drinking establishments receive SafeBar sexual violence and bystander intervention training as a condition of their local license. Commissioners said at that time they were interested in potentially requiring the training, but also said a key consideration would be how many staff members should have to participate.

Vice Mayor Jennifer Ananda, an attorney and social worker, originally proposed that the commission require in-person training for all bar staff through the SafeBar program. Though the commission has scaled back from her original proposal, Ananda said that change is incremental. She noted the proposal has already increased awareness among bar owners about SafeBar training and that requiring some training is a move toward better safety.

“I think part of doing macro change and shifting paradigms and addressing community safety is understanding that what we want and what folks are willing to do is sometimes more incremental in nature,” Ananda said.

The commission was responding in part to concerns from owners of drinking establishments, which includes bars, restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol. While some owners told the commission that they were supportive of such a requirement, others said it would be difficult to comply with and asked that the training be voluntary. Specifically, some owners said that, because there is such high turnover and variable schedules for bar staff, it would be difficult to ensure that all employees received the training.

Due to those concerns and other considerations, as part of their meeting last week, commissioners proposed the idea of limiting the training to only managers and drinking establishments with a certain percent of their sales from alcohol. The commission also made the suggestion that such a requirement, if adopted, not begin immediately so that commissioners had time to work out the details of a potential ordinance. The city would need to determine what entity must provide the training and how it should be conducted, with options including in-person, via video and via webinar. Commissioners said they were interested in the city paying for the training, and said that possibility should therefore be discussed as part of the city’s budget process this spring.

Related stories

Oct. 17, 2018 — City leaders interested in requiring bar staff to receive intervention training for sexual assault and harassment

April 16, 2018 — Lawrence bars, restaurants work to address harassment of servers


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