Today we’d like to introduce you to Haleigh Harrold.
Hi Haleigh, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
History – SAFE Bar Network:
The SAFE Bar Network began as a Sexual Assault Awareness Month project of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), a rape crisis and response center in Kansas City, Missouri. A committee of educators, advocates, counselors, and food and beverage industry folks developed the training curriculum focused on increasing safety. They then implemented the program with local bars and restaurants and evaluated the success. Their work drew the attention of a local business owner, Kevin Fitzpatrick, and his business partner Kevin Duffy from St. Louis, Missouri, who owned four college bars in Indiana, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Kevin Fitzpatrick and Kevin Duffy spent years building on the brand equity of their bars to improve them by modernizing the operations and improving management and training. Through this work, they found a gap in their training program. They began the search for bystander intervention training to equip their, mostly college-age staff with the skills to create a positive, safe environment for customers and employees. They felt that bystander intervention training was a natural extension of security and responsible drinking training they were already doing. In 2018 they partnered with Haleigh Harrold from MOCSA to work with their managers and hundreds of employees to create a workplace culture focused on increasing safety and giving everyone a safe night out.
Over the next two years, Haleigh Harrold worked closely with their teams, provided training, and the atmosphere of their bars began to change. At the time, Kevin Duffy said the following.“We think that we do a great job of training our staff to spot fake IDs and notice when someone has had too much to drink. Still, we saw a gap in our training. We wanted to provide our employees opportunities to learn bystander intervention skills to increase safety and enhance the positive atmosphere of our bars. The improvements in intervention skills, safety, and overall atmosphere were incredible, and we wanted to invest in making this training available to other bars.”
In January 2020, Kevin Duffy and Kevin Fitzpatrick launched the SAFE Bar Network as a nonprofit organization with the mission of increasing access to bystander intervention training for employees at bars and other alcohol-serving venues. They hired Haleigh to lead the organization and expand the network nationwide.
In May 2020, Haleigh began to build out a network of community partners, alcohol serving-venues, and beverage industry supporters to support the SAFE Bar Networks’ efforts to build meaningful partnerships with alcohol-serving venues. Through these partnerships, the SAFE Bar Network continued to improve its program and help alcohol-serving venues take their commitment to safety and make changes to ensure a safe night out for their customers and employees.
From the beginning, the SAFE Bar Network has been built on the idea that culture change is possible. They have seen that when the employees at alcohol-serving venues are engaged in conversations about harm, active bystander skills, and supporting each other. The workplace culture shifts a renewed emphasis on safety. 97% of program participants know at least one way that they will prevent sexual harassment and assault. A step further, 96% know at least one thing they will do to create a workplace culture where employees use active bystander skills to prevent sexual harassment and assault.
As a result of the SAFE Bar Network’s engaging, practical, and manageable approach to safe nightlife work, the SAFE Bar Network is growing by leaps and bounds. In the last 30 days, their team has trained nearly 500 people working at over 20 venues.
Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The SAFE Bar Network launched as a nonprofit in January 2020. At that time, we had built momentum with our founding member venues and had additional bars in each of their three cities lined up to join the Network and schedule training for their teams. As we all know, the global pandemic hit just a few short months later. As a result, our founding bars and other venues in their communities shut their doors.
For the next eighteen months, our member venues and other bars, restaurants, and nightclubs across the county struggled to stay in business. While we can say that giving employees and customers a safe night out was a growing priority for alcohol-serving venues in January 2020, that was not the case come March 2020. The new priority became staying in business, hiring and retaining staff, and responding to the ever-changing landscape related to COVID 19.
During this time, the SAFE Bar Network built relationships with the liquor industry and people doing active bystander work in their local communities. We set out to improve our program model so that when alcohol-serving venues reopened and safety related to alcohol rose again to a top priority, we would be ready to meet the demand. And that is what happened.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I went to college to study as a journalist because I wanted to help people. I enjoyed learning to be a journalist and building the skills to share people’s stories, but I felt I needed to do more to help others. I had the opportunity to attend graduate school and chose to shift career paths and study to be a nonprofit leader. My first job was fundraising for a museum. It was exciting and entertaining, but I felt I needed to do more to help others. So I shifted again and began working at a rape crisis center, both providing advocacy to people who had experienced sexual violence and working in the community to spread knowledge and share the resources we offered.
Over the next 10 years, I worked closely with diverse corners of the Kansas City community to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault. We partnered with middle school, high schools, and community groups to build active bystander skills and work to create social norms around interrupting to help others. While we were successful at helping people build individual skills, it wasn’t until we started working with bars and restaurants that I finally saw our programming successfully shift social norms to encourage people to take action to help. At that point, I became all in on partnering with bars and other alcohol-serving venues to increase safety.
The field of sexual violence prevention is shifting rapidly, and I’m grateful to be part of that change. For a long time, I thought that to get people interested in preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, I had to convince them that it was a problem. I had to scare them into wanting to be part of the solution. At some point in the last 10 years, I realized something profound. Whether people know it or not, they are already preventing sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of harm.
I’ve come to believe, along with many of my colleagues, in an approach that is a 180-degree shift from where I started. To engage people in increasing safety, we must paint a picture of what is possible. Through conversation, we create comfort and routine around talking about noticing uncomfortable and unsafe situations and interrupting to help. Increasing safety depends on the connections between all of us and the support we offer each other.
Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
In the last 60 days, the SAFE Bar Network has facilitated the SAFE Bar Training conversation with 571 people working in 20 bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and breweries across the country. Owners and general managers are beginning to prioritize their employees’ and customers’ comfort and safety in new ways. As a result, interest in partnering with the SAFE Bar Network to renew a commitment to safety continues to grow. We only see this trend continuing and strengthening in the next 5-10 years.
- The SAFE Bar Network is a nonprofit and we welcome donations of any size to help us partners with bars and other alcohol-serving venues to increase safety. A $25 donation sponsors one person participating in the SAFE Bar Training conversation. A donation of $1,000 sponsors on new venue joining the SAFE Bar Network and providing training for their team. All donations are tax-deductible.
- Website: www.safebarnetwork.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/safebarnetwork
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/safebarnetwork
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/safebarnetwork
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR2TDklMJYbG8rAonSd7X2A
- Other: www.safebarnetwork.org/donate
Images taken by Haleigh Harrold and SAFE Bar Network members.