City Commission approves ordinance requiring bars to train staff on sexual violence intervention

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

A new ordinance will soon require some bar and restaurant workers in Lawrence to undergo sexual violence intervention training in order for the establishments to keep their local liquor licenses.

Despite opposition from several local bar and restaurant owners, the Lawrence City Commission approved the ordinance with a unanimous 4-0 vote on Tuesday. Commissioner Leslie Soden was absent from the meeting.

The measure was originally on the meeting’s consent agenda, which would have allowed the commission to approve it without discussing it. But it was pulled out for discussion when Topeka attorney Tuck Duncan, who helps businesses acquire liquor licenses, said he and other stakeholders in the restaurant and bar industry had concerns about it.

The ordinance requires the training for on-site managers as a condition of receiving a local drinking establishment license from the city. Both the city-issued license and a state liquor license are required in order to serve alcoholic beverages.

Some businesses would be exempt from the ordinance, such as liquor and grocery stores that do not allow the consumption of alcohol on their premises and businesses with an “incidental bar,” which are specifically theaters and retirement communities that get less than 25% of their income from liquor sales.

The ordinance’s wording does not identify any particular training provider and instead allows licensees to choose their own trainer so long as the trainer is “qualified.”

City Commission Meeting 07/16/19

During public comment, several bar owners asked for the city to reconsider the ordinance. Rob Farha, owner of The Wheel, said he thought the city didn’t get enough feedback from bars and restaurants early on in the process of crafting the ordinance. And Peach Madl, co-owner of The Sandbar, said she was concerned that intervening in sexual harassment situations could open her business up to liability issues.

Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewing Co., said he didn’t think the requirement was necessary to address sexual violence, and that it would hurt some drinking establishments financially. Instead, he suggested, the city could work together with bars and restaurants to create a sexual violence prevention program. He didn’t elaborate on what that might look like.

But Mayor Lisa Larsen said she believed the businesses and the city could still work together to address sexual violence with the ordinance in place.

“I really appreciate that several people talked about wanting this to be a community-wide (initiative), using our various resources as an ally,” she said. “I don’t know why that can’t continue with this in place … I think that would be a really good way to expand the program.”

Related stories

May 21 — City to consider exceptions for sexual assault intervention training for businesses that serve alcohol

May 19 — Lawrence City Commission to consider requiring sexual assault intervention training for some staff at local bars

Feb. 25 — City working to require sexual assault intervention training for some staff at local bars

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

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.