‘Zero tolerance’ declared on sexual harassment in Hackney clubs and bars

Late night venue. Pic: Lois Borny

Hundreds of pubs, clubs and bars across Hackney are expected to clamp down on sexual harassment following the council’s new zero-tolerance campaign.

Re-frame the Night aims to “raise awareness of sexual harassment and abuse in the night-time economy” and spark honest and informative conversations. The campaign will also see an increased police and council presence late at night, which will be funded by Hackney’s Late Night Levy.

The levy means charging venues selling alcohol between 1 minute past midnight and 6am on one or more days in a year, an additional annual fee.

As part of the campaign, licensed venues will be offered free toolkits and specialist training in January 2020 by signing up to the ‘Hackney Nights’ safety charter. This will be provided by Good Night Out, an independent organisation that challenges sexual harassment in the late night economy.

The toolkits and training will cover sexual harassment laws, issues surrounding alcohol and sexual consent, how best to eject harassers from premises and how to access support services for those effected.

Hackney’s campaign was launched at the borough-wide Pub Watch event on Wednesday, which brought together 80 licenced venue owners to hear about issues surrounding inclusivity, alcohol safety, noise-awareness and hate-crime prevention.

Members of Good Night Out. Pic: Emma Wynne

Bryony Beynon, managing director of Good Night Out, spoke about the roots of the campaign – the Reclaim the Night movement of the 1970s.

She said that although the conversation has clearly moved on since then, there is still “a long way to go.” She added that certain myths are still deeply embedded in late night culture, including victim blaming and excusing perpetrators.

Christian Cambell, 38, who manages the Cock Tavern, a craft beer brew bar in Hackney, was one of the Pub Watch attendees. He told EastLondonLines that he felt ill-equipped to deal with sexual harassment on his premises.

He said that the problem is ever-present but often harder to spot than racism or homophobia, so is yet to create a policy for his staff on how to deal with it.

When asked whether his staff are subjugated to harassment from customers, he said: “It’s definitely part of being a female bar-tender. People accept nonsense as a female bar staff that they wouldn’t in the office.”

Re-frame the night leaflet. Pic: Emma Wynne

Samantha Mathys, Late Night Levy Manager, told EastLondonLines that as a zero-tolerance borough, it is vital to move away from the idea that sexual harassment isn’t a serious enough offence to report.

She said: “If we are doing our job properly then the campaign will increase the number of incidents reported.”

Sexual harassment is just the first of many issues that will be addressed under the Hackney Nights safety charter.

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