The Long Island Safer Bars Initiative rolled out in Patchogue over the summer. Ever since it’s been working to educate restaurant owners and staffers alike about the signs of people in need of intervention.
Among those who’ve joined the program is James Gilroy, owner of Fulton’s Gate on West Main Street.
“We’ve had female customers come on blind dates because they know Fulton’s is a safe bar and if something is going wrong, they know they have an out,” said Gilroy. “I have been behind the bar for 25 years, an owner for 15, and I am looking at things in this training like, “Wow, I never thought of it like this.'”
The Safer Bars Initiative, which educates bar staff and security on how to identify potential violence and sexual abuse, was created when two local nonprofits, The Retreat Inc. and Long Island Against Domestic Violence, partnered together in summer of 2017.
“This Long Island Safer Bars Initiative is important to bring to our communities with a rich nightlife — because every 98 seconds a person in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted and more than 50 percent of these incidents include alcohol consumption,” said Nicole Keller, a Retreat project manager.
The first two bars to have its staff trained in Patchogue were Fulton’s Gate and That Meetball Place, during this past summer.
During the training at each establishment, staffers learned about subtle cues that identify when a date or other male-female interaction may be going sour — such as telltale gestures and reactions to physical contact — as well as intervention tactics.
The program, which is funded by the New York State Department of Health, is free to any alcohol-selling establishment that wants the training.
More Patchogue bars have since lined up for the program, Keller said.
And its growth has spread to educators like Rob Delgiorno, who owns the popular bartending school 1-800Bartend.
“They train you how to be aware,” said Delgiorno, who brings in the initiative to train his students. “It is about using your voice [rather than] just pouring drinks.”
In addition to the bar owners, business leaders such as the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, David Kennedy, have supported the cause.
“This program not only will help ensure we provide a fun, friendly and safe nightlife in our downtown, it also highlights how our local bar owners take very seriously the need to discourage bad behavior that will not be tolerated in Patchogue,” Kennedy said.
The goal is to spread the program to every bar in Patchogue that has a liquor license. There are also plans in the works to move into other downtowns, such as Bay Shore and Port Jefferson.