110. A Peek at How One Brewery Partners with SAFE Bar Network
Chatting with Blanca Quintero of Highland Park Brewery; plus Tarot for resilience and setting boundaries.
Blanca Quintero on SAFE Bar Network and Its Partnership with Highland Park Brewery
a day (EDIT: Two days—fully thought Tuesday was Wednesday, hoo boy) early for the ol’ Hugging the Bar routine, considering tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This week seemed like a good time to feature the first of what I hope will be an ongoing collection of Q&A’s: conversations with folks who partner with the SAFE Bar Network. As a reminder, SAFE Bar Network is a nonprofit working with alcohol-serving venues on bystander intervention training. More thoughtful, tailored to each unique venue, and effectively conversation-based than some pre-existing training tools in this vein, SAFE Bar Network reaches venue staff through sessions with trained facilitators, who present situations and, in an open discussion, work through possible and impactful solutions.
This week seemed like a good time because A, I am thankful for resources and organizations like SAFE Bar Network. You can call me cheesy for this association, and you’d be right, but that doesn’t not compromise the truth of that statement. I won’t digress on this because I don’t want to turn the focus away from the good of SAFE Bar Network and the brewery and person being profiled here, but I think most of us can agree that things in the toxic-workplace, discrimination-fostering realm of the craft beer industry are still…less than ideal. Organizations like SBN and the people who start them, train with them, bring these systems into their venues, etc.—these are the resources and people who pave a path toward something better, who start a way forward on their own home turf by taking care of their people and their patrons, who inspire other venues to follow suit. They’re a true bright spot, one that has the potential to guide the entire greater beer and hospitality industry.
And B, it is also a good time for these conversations because we’ve officially arrived at the holiday season, and this time of year can really crank up the already-intense situation at many bars and restaurants in terms of parties and customers’ drinking and behavior. I know this is unfortunately an impossible wish, but I do hope folks working in bars and breweries and such make it through these season as safe and happy as can be, and—perhaps more realistically—I hope more and more venues see the light and bring in training like SBN.
And so, let’s get into this chat about SAFE Bar Network with Blanca Quintero. Blanca is the president of the Pink Boots Society, and also works at SBN partner venue Highland Park Brewery in LA. And not only does Blanca work at an SBN partner venue, but she is also a trained SAFE Bar Network facilitator. So, I was excited to talk to Blanca about not just Highland Park’s decision to work with SAFE Bar Network, but also her own personal decision to work with the network as someone going into venues and conducting these educational conversations.
When did Highland Park make the decision to become a member of the SAFE Bar Network, and how did that decision come about? What kind of conversations were happening at the brewery to inspire this commitment?
We were looking into Bystander Intervention training and I was reviewing what our best options were for our space. I heard of SAFE Bar Network from Brave Noise and Breaking Silence. Breaking Silence is a partner of the brewery and we have an Empathy Training with them once a year. In discussing how we can make our space more welcoming, and provide support for the staff in dealing with difficult situations, we knew we needed to find a suitable Bystander Intervention training for the staff.
Had you already become a SAFE Bar Network facilitator? I’m wondering what that timing looked like, and whether you were able to tell your fellow team members what SAFE Bar Network training looked like—or, if HPB becoming a member is in fact what inspired your then becoming a facilitator?
When I heard of SAFE Bar Network and saw that there was an opportunity to get trained as a facilitator I signed up. It happened at the same time as I was trying to find a good fit for the brewery. Ultimately I think it made for better training for the staff since we were all familiar.
In terms of the entire brewery becoming a member, what did that process look like? What was the training like? I’m especially curious what about SAFE Bar Network as a program made the most sense for HPB—there are other organizations out there that do trainings in a similar vein, so what made SAFE Bar Network stand out?
We hosted mandatory training for all staff—kitchen, brewery, front of house, management—in an effort to get everyone the same type of training. The training went well, they were able to pull from relevant situations that happened at the brewery and get a good understanding of how to properly address issues that may arise, whether that is someone feeling unsafe, being approached by a stranger, or bigoted folks harassing guests. Because SAFE Bar Network is more [about] facilitating a conversation and having group discussions and group work, it felt like a good fit for our staff. As Haleigh [Harrold, SAFE Bar Network executive director] says, everyone already knows what to do because in the service industry everyone has experienced a situation like this. So tapping into that helped the staff feel more confident in what their responses were or what support they needed from management to help them in these tough situations.
What kind of insight on this—on how SAFE Bar Network is unique—can you share specifically as a facilitator yourself? What do you appreciate about SAFE Bar Network that you haven’t really found elsewhere?
I’ve done a handful of training sessions and I think that the involvement and sharing from participants really helps them grasp these tools and directions they can take in addressing problematic situations. [It’s] a more hands-on approach versus having folks sit and listen for 30 minutes of lecturing.
What were some of the reactions to the training at HPB afterward? Like, were team members expressing that they’d learned different things, or felt some of their concerns were finally recognized?
Both. I remember some of the staff vocalizing they were thankful that they had handled a situation correctly or were able to ask for more help that they may not have been getting from management. Where they understood the burden did not solely fall on them to resolve a situation, but also, if they felt empowered to handle the situation they had the direction to do so.
How has being a SAFE Bar Network member impacted HPB ever since? What do you think it brings to the workplace, what do you think it offers staff and even patrons? Essentially, how do you think HPB is a different place to work and patronize from other venues that have not done this program?
I truly think that the training helped reinforce for the staff that they can help in these problematic situations and shut it down. We often get situations where a guest can be problematic in different ways—aggressive, transphobic, racist, etc.—and since the training I believe that we have a better path in place to resolve these problematic situations and our guests feel that they are in a welcoming space.
What would you tell a brewery or beer bar—or any alcohol-serving venue, really—who is considering this kind of training but hasn’t yet committed or decided on a program?
I would tell them, from experience as a manager in a brewery as well as a facilitator, that this kind of training is a great support for the staff and necessary in any establishment that serves alcohol. Having the proper training in place will help the staff when they have problematic situations arise in the workplace, whether with each other or with guests.
Why is this kind of training so important in this industry? Is it something you hope to see grow in prevalence among breweries, bars, restaurants, etc.? What do you think the impact could be industry-wide if more venues did become SAFE Bar Network members?
Ultimately, I believe that training is a resource that helps staff and also provides support that we often feel is not provided in the industry. Having people understand that we should have spaces where everyone can feel safe, welcome and included comes from speaking up and speaking out when problematic behavior and situations are shut down. And reinforcing that with staff and management in these spaces trickles down to the guests that frequent these places.
This week, I pulled the Nine of Wands.
Wands is the suit of communication, intuition, and travel. The Nine of Wands in particular is about resilience, standing strong, having courage, and setting and maintaining boundaries. I like to think of the Nine of Wands as a much-needed signal of a light at the end of the tunnel, a hearty encouragement that yes, you can do this, and a message that as hard as things may seem right now, you are thisclose to getting through a tough time or achieving a very hard-won goal. This card tends to come up when you’ve just been getting knocked down and knocked down again, and you’re feeling pretty depleted. Maybe you want to quit on a project or task, or move away and change your name to stop dealing with a certain situation, or throw in the towel on a dream you’ve always fostered but now found to be an incredible amount of work. The Nine of Wands understands, because hoo, boy, has it been a rough road. But it wants to strengthen your resolve, steel your nerves, remind you can do this, and assure you that you are about to see rewards for your hard work. The Nine of Wands is the ultimate halftime pep talk when your team’s been getting its butt handed to it but still absolutely has the ability to take the whole game and is about to, actually.
There are times and situations about compromise, and cards that speak to them. This is not one of those times. Create boundaries you need and drown out the haters. Psyche yourself up with whatever rituals work for you and get yourself pumped. Squash those hurdles, and crush those challenges. You are almost there, and it’s going to be so worth it. Find the people who support you, because they are definitely out there, and you don’t need anyone who’s judging you or unnecessarily stealing your energy. Communicate your needs, and clear any distractions. Let’s do this! On one—or on three? Idk sports…do your little chant and let out a roar and go.
This of course brings to mind Sierra Nevada’s impactful Resilience IPA open collaboration, which raised millions to help bring relief to the Northern California hit by devastating fire in late 2018. More recently, Resilience Brewing Co. is Schilling Beer Co.’s ale project. There’s a whole host of incredible-sounding beers there to treat yourself to after you’ve braved whatever storm you’re going through—cheers to Resilience, cheers to that Nine of Wands energy, cheers to you.
This Week’s Boozy Media Rec
One of the best times I have had listening to a podcast in quite a long time was catching up on a September episode of A Woman’s Brew, “Unpopular Opinions.” Between their deep knowledge and completely unpretentious, come-as-you-are, drink-what-you-like approach to beer, I could really just listen to Joanne and Tori chat about beer and their opinions—whether popular or not—all day. But in this episode, they tackle the strong craft beer takes floating out there in the greater consumer community with an admirable level of comprehensive organization and inclusivity. Peppering their own views, they tackle thoughts shared on Instagram and Reddit, which spark conversations ranging from how that’s actually a totally logical opinion to wow, that’s…an interesting one. I give a massive kudos to them for always remaining kind and open-minded even to the ones that made me as a listener think, “Oh, kick rocks.” Their diplomatic approach didn’t shut anything down, which only makes the discussion better.
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
I got to experience ~bierstacheln~ for the first time, at Grimm Artisanal Ales, with their fantastic barleywine. I am not exaggerating when I call the flavor-and-aroma magic—the combination of sciencey science and time-honored beer tradition—mind-blowing. You can read some details about the experience here.
Until next time, here’s Darby brunching.