Smart Serve sexual violence training welcome for Timmins bar, bartender

The addition of new training on how to handle sexual violence in the Smart Serve program, officially announced Friday, is a welcome one for bars and bartenders in Timmins.

For Kim Sergerie-Donovan, general manager of the Surge Sports Lounge, it's a move that she was surprised hadn't come sooner.

"I think it should have happened a long time ago," said Sergerie-Donovan. "Sexual harassment in the workplace or violence has been in workplaces forever, so I'm glad they added it to the Smart Serve."

Pre-COVID Statistics Canada numbers show that the most common location for reported cases of serious unwanted sexual behaviour is in restaurants and bars.

The new training module takes people through different scenarios where sexual harassment and drug-facilitated sexual assault could be taking place, highlights issues to look out for and suggests ways to handle them.

Local bartender Ben Nash said he's always tried to be diligent about noticing and dealing with unwanted sexual advances in his work. Having some additional guidance is helpful.

"We're always down with things that are going to make people feel more safe with coming out to the bar," said Nash, adding it's also important for customers to alert staff when they're feeling unsafe.

"Obviously, that's part of our job to make people feel safe and welcome, so ... if it helps other people, it helps us out and it keeps everything running smoothly."

The new module is meant to be complementary to existing sexual violence policies and people already Smart Serve certified don't need to retake the program.

Sergerie-Donovan said she's hoping to update her staff about the module when the bar gets a routine visit from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which oversees the program.