RVAP introduces sexual-assault prevention program for bars


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As reports of sexual assault in the University of Iowa and Iowa City community to increase, local restaurant and bar owners will be tasked with participating in a new sexual assault prevention-training program.

Rape Victim Advocacy Program officials introduced the new program, Raise the Bar, at the biannual Restaurant and Bar Forum at Formosa on Wednesday.

“My hope is that all bars and alcohol-serving restaurants can use Raise the Bar to train their employees,” said Susan Junis, the RVAP education coordinator. “This will help them learn to handle situations that lead to sexual assault in an environment that sells alcohol.”

Junis said Raise the Bar is bystander-based, which means that bar owners, staff, and security can use this program to learn about how to both recognize and respond to dangerous situations involving alcohol.

George Etre, the owner of Takanami and Formosa as well as the Iowa Chop House, said he supports the RVAP’s Raise the Bar program because the city can become dangerous at night.

“When workers are trained to prevent sexual assault, it’s better for everybody,” he said.

The program was just one of several new ideas and policies discussed at the forum among state, local, and UI officials.

Compliance officer Shannon Pogones said local restaurants and bars ought to look for opportunities to educate their staff members on the newest city alcohol regulations.

“Any alcohol training is beneficial,” she said. “Most people who own restaurants and bars aren’t aware of the latest laws about alcohol, so they could be doing things wrong and not even know it. When people are informed, people can be safer at night.”

Pogones said Iowa City is normally good at keeping ahead of the bar in terms of abiding by alcohol regulations.

Assistant City Attorney Eric Goers said there have not been any notable changes to city law regarding alcohol since April.

“The University of Iowa Police Department is no longer doing bar checks,” he said. “However, they are still making efforts to keep people safe …”

Goers said the main regulation restaurant and bar owners should be aware of is that they may not provide all-you-can-drink specials, as well as any deals that offer numerous drinks for the price of one.

“The increase of alcohol requested by a customer must be in accordance with an increase of price,” Goers said.

Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said the more involved restaurant and bar owners are in the discussions held in these biannual meetings, the easier it is to keep members of the community safe.

“These meetings benefit restaurant and bar owners through effective problem solving, proper communication, and collaboration,” she said. “Our goal is to find ways to support our local businesses.”

Bird said laws and regulations provide obstacles for restaurants and bars, and the Restaurant and Bar Forum is a great way to help these businesses figure out how to get through them.

“If we keep having these meetings this twice a year, then we’ll continue to work together and push past any problem that comes our way,” she said.

Etre said it is sometimes difficult to get everyone together due to conflicting schedules and some existing animosity between businesses.

“The city wants as much feedback as possible,” he said. “There are just so many alcohol ordinances in Iowa City that no one knows about.”

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