Local bar and tavern owners learned about alcohol law and policy at a training session hosted by city officials Wednesday night.
According to Mark Woulf, alcohol policy coordinator, the city hosts a tavern safety training session every six months. He said the city held the session to provide guidelines to bar and tavern owners for creating and enforcing effective policies to keep their establishments safe.
Madison Police Department Sgt. Scott Kleinfeldt said it was the owners’ main responsibility to maintain safety at their venue. However, he added they are encouraged to call MPD for problems without fear of losing their license.
Woulf said a new addition to the training was the appearance of the Dane County Rape Crisis Center, which explained to bar owners and employees the use of alcohol can be used as a date-rape drug.
“Alcohol is a pretty common dynamic of a sexual assault,” Maria Schirmer, the Rape Crisis Center’s community educator, said.
Kelly Anderson, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, said perpetrators use alcohol as a tool to make someone vulnerable to victimization. She said there are college serial predators with averages of 20 victims and that bar owners and employees had a high likelihood of interacting with these types of experiences.
“[Bartenders are] the first line of defense in some of these situations,” Woulf said.
Many owners expressed concern about unruly patrons on public sidewalks and preventing violence, citing the shooting on the 600 block on University Avenue last summer as an example.
Kleinfeldt said bar owners and employees can call the police to issue an unruly patron, which would ban the individual from the establishment for six months.
“It’s probably our most underutilized tool that’s out there,” Woulf said.
Jennifer Zilavy, assistant city attorney, said unruly behavior on public sidewalks is an issue, and it is the bar’s legal obligation to manage outside of the premises.
“If you don’t think you do, you do,” Zilavy said to the owners about managing off-premises.
She added parking lots should be well-lit and staff should regularly patrol nearby parking lots, for which bars are also liable.
Scott Strassburg, member of the Madison Fire Department, said another important factor of a bar or tavern’s safety is ensuring capacity is followed. This includes lessening the capacity for patron’s costumes during Halloween, he said.
Eric Kestin, an investigator and conciliator for city of Madison’s Department of Civil Rights, said it is also pertinent that bar owners and employees avoid discrimination.
Kestin said the best way to do this is to make sure policies are clearly posted for patrons and are applied equally.
He said complaints have been filed in the area for unfair treatment in bars, such as against race and gender.
Representatives from Bowl-A-Vard on Spring Drive said in response to the discussion on discrimination, they expected to make changes in dress code but did not yet know the specifics.
The next training session is expected to take place in October, Woulf said.