Introducing the Safe Bars P.A.C.T.
A new collaborative project promoting responsible business practice in the hospitality industry
by Ruvani de Silva
This summer’s ‘#MeToo moment’ marked a watershed in the beer industry. The stories shared on Brienne Allen and Siobhan Buchanan’s Instagram stories, the slew of resignations that came in their wake, and the public call-outs from staff at BrewDog and Mikkeller, raised enough attention to feature in mainstream news media on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now that the cat is well and truly out of the bag about just how severe and frequent instances of gender-based bigotry, harassment, and violence are in the craft beer industry, the big question we are left with is how can we really, meaningfully change the industry as a whole to wipe out predatory behavior and mentality? A complete change in culture must lie at the heart of any serious campaign to throw off the shackles of the complicit and accepting beer-bro environment that still dominates. It is exactly this profound and ingrained shift, this normalization of safe and respectful behaviors and environments, that the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. has been founded to create.
What is the Safe Bars P.A.C.T.?
Launched in September 2021, the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. initiative is a collaborative project started by Andrew Coplon of Craft Beer Professionals, Julie Rhodes of Not Your Hobby Marketing, Betsy Lay of Lady Justice Brewing, Dana Kaluzny of Social Impact Projects and Lauren Taylor of Safe Bars. By signing up for the P.A.C.T. (Promise of Awareness, Compassion, and Trust) code of conduct, businesses are making a visible and public commitment to take pro-active measures to safeguard staff and patrons from harassment and violence.
The code promises that signatories will step up, respond and act in the event of unwanted attention and aggression, and that staff will be offered unbiased protections and safe spaces to voice concerns and report infractions. By taking responsibility as a business for ensuring a zero-tolerance policy towards gender-based bullying and violence, the P.A.C.T. aims to foster a new culture, in the beer industry and across the hospitality industry, where “committing to a code of conduct and offering prevention and bystander training for your beverage team will be just as commonplace as making someone fill out new hire paperwork,” in the words of Julie Rhodes.
From Discussion to Action
The seeds for the P.A.C.T. were sown in December 2020, when all five founders took part in Craft Beer Professionals’ Panel Fest event and began discussing how to create safer spaces in the industry. These conversations led to Craft Beer Professionals hosting a live YouTube event titled Voices of Discrimination in March 2021 to raise awareness about prejudice and harassment in the industry and discuss actionable strategies for change, and included readings of anonymously contributed negative experiences.
This project highlighted the need for a bold and concrete initiative to spearhead industry change. “We wanted to help make a positive impact in the craft beverage industry,” says Andrew Coplon, “Our mission is to unite beverage professionals and trade associations who want to proactively make a long-term commitment to establishing safer, more respectful work and drinking spaces for employees and consumers.”
The project offers practical support and solutions for businesses who want to make a change in their culture, “Many alcohol and beverage companies/establishments want to do better but don’t know what steps to take” says Lauren Taylor, “The code is a way of modeling what a safe and respectful workplace looks like. It also gives owners and managers a way to open and guide a conversation among staff on these issues.”
The need for a wider and more open discussion on the issues surrounding gender-based harassment and discrimination has been another major motivating factor for the team. “Our audience is not exactly comfortable talking about this problem, much less acknowledging it in public,” comments Julie Rhodes “. We just have to remove the stigma of discomfort in bringing these issues to the public forefront and make proactive, inclusive commitments the new normal.”
In it for the Long Game
The aim of the P.A.C.T. is to act as a vehicle for long-term, committed change, and the team are invested in taking it forward in an ongoing capacity. “Systematic and structural change takes a long time,” says Betsy Lay, “It requires a shift in culture and a lot of patience. We’re going to need large and small organizations to commit to this work: guilds, trade associations, individual breweries, vendors. There has to be buy-in industry wide.”
Dana Kaluzny agrees, emphasizing the need for collaborative planning and setting realistic goals with such a major project. “As founding partners, we were proactive in establishing with one another our capacity, boundaries and contributions available before we started planning activities for the initiative,” she comments, “We were honest with one another to figure out the behaviors and ongoing practices that we needed to be able to share the responsibilities of keeping this initiative a long term commitment.”
Julie Rhodes is intent on raising awareness across the industry for as long as it takes. “We plan to take this to every industry focused trade association, advocacy and interest group until gender-based harassment prevention is the new industry norm,” she says, “Every chance we get to collaborate with conferences, events, journalists, and advocates will be exhausted.”
Andrew Coplon agrees. “One of our biggest goals for P.A.C.T. is for it to not be simply a one-time launch, but a constant vehicle for positive change” he adds, “It takes long-term work and we hope that P.A.C.T. can help our industry continue to be better over time. We plan to continually use our platforms to draw awareness to the initiative.”
Building Better Businesses
The team are using a multi-pronged approach towards encouraging businesses to sign up to the pact. While not shying away from the principled significance of endorsing the P.A.C.T. code of conduct, there is also an emphasis on the practical and business implications of committing. “Protecting the human capital that fuels your beverage business is not only ethically responsible, but fiscally responsible as well,” says Rhodes, “The hardest part of this whole process is convincing owners and operators that ethical commitments to safer environments are just as important as collaboration brews or festivals or taproom events.” But, ultimately the P.A.C.T. is about more than just protecting businesses from lawsuits – it is about creating an environment where all drinkers and hospitality workers feel safe and are not fearful.
In addition to signing up for the code of conduct, businesses are encouraged to undertake Safe Bars training and become Safe Bars certified. The training is provided by Safe Bars and offers hospitality workers and managers precise and specific actions on how to handle different types of hostile situations effectively and professionally.
To encourage businesses to become Safe Bars Certified, the P.A.C.T. team not only recommend that breweries endorse the Brave Noise Beer project, Betsy Lay has also contributed her own Pale Ale recipe for signatories to access for free and brew to raise funds to pay for their Safe Bars training. “Our experiential trainings equip owners, managers, and staff with practical skills for creating safe and respectful workplaces, and safe and welcoming spaces for patrons,” says Lauren Taylor, “It’s a way for breweries to put into practice the principles in the P.A.C.T.”
How Can Consumers Help?
While the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. is not a consumer-facing project, the team is keen to raise awareness among bar and brewery patrons about the initiative and encourage their support. “Consumers can speak with their wallets,” says Julie Rhodes, “Seeking our organizations that wear prevention training like a badge of honor, should be your first choice of where to spend your dollars.”
The onus on beer consumers to make ethically sound purchases has undoubtedly increased in the last couple of years. Boycotts of breweries like Founders and Boulevard, following their respective racism and sexism scandals, may not have made huge in-roads to those breweries’ profits yet but still send a clear message that there are beer lovers who are committed to making the industry more equitable and inclusive.
Getting involved in the conversation as a consumer is equally helpful when it comes to making the industry safer and more respectful. Raising awareness among businesses and business owners about the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. and discussing why signing up is important is another significant way in which consumers can affect positive change. Lauren Taylor wants consumers to help spread the word. “Talk about it,” she says, “Mention it to your favorite breweries and taprooms. Post about it wherever you post. Ask your friends to do the same. Make it a topic of conversation among your friends and in your community.”
Forging Lasting and Meaningful Change
The Safe Bars P.A.C.T. offers the beer and hospitality industries a chance to move from talking-shop conversation around safety and respect in our spaces to practical, visible action and accountability. It is a much-needed vehicle for on-the-ground change that has the power to dismantle the existing unequal and unsafe workplace practices that have caused untold damage to women and marginalized groups in the industry.
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Although it is still young and will undoubtedly take time to gather momentum, the P.A.C.T. gives businesses a clear and straightforward opportunity to show their commitment to doing better and being better to their staff and their customers. Julie Rhodes is firm in her belief that the P.A.C.T. can and will make a difference. “The components of the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. Initiative are easy to understand, the asks are reasonable, and the prevention training is affordable and efficient,” she explains, “We heard the rally cries from our industry for accessible, simple, proactive, and affordable resources to help organizations create safer workspaces, so we’ve provided almost everything they might need to foster more respectful workspaces and drinking spaces.”
As Coplon, Rhodes, Lay, Taylor and Kaluzny continue to work hard to raise the profile of the P.A.C.T. and attract signees, we can hope that over time, the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. code and Safe Bars Certification documentation will become as ubiquitous and normalized as Brewers Association membership or the SIBA seal. The long march toward equality in our taprooms may be far from over but the launch of the Safe Bars P.A.C.T. is an important step forward.