Mankato calling for safer bars

Photo from the SBI Facebook page
Photo from the SBI Facebook page

Support for the Safe Bar Initiative is growing on campus and in the community

We have all encountered an ill-behaved individual while trying to enjoy a late weekend downtown; we commiserate to our friends, classmates, and families by sharing stories of unwanted touching, unwarranted comments, and fights we have witnessed in our favorite bars.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the staff of our friendly neighborhood bars were trained to identify potential dangers and intervene on behalf of your friends and those you care for before the situation turned sour?
This is the vision of the Safe Bar Initiative (SBI).

Sabrina Trickel has been working as a Prevention Specialist with the Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) to kick start the SBI here in Mankato. She has worked closely with the bars in the city and recently hosted the first on-campus bystander intervention training with HER Campus. Trickel was able to sit down with us and give us more information on how the SBI can change our city bar scene for the better:

What is the Safe Bar Initiative?
The SBI is a collaborative prevention effort with campuses, CADA, public safety, and the community to reduce sexual harassment and violence in bars. This initiative focuses on bystander intervention training and certification.

What are some of the changes we would see if Mankato participated in the SBI?
If Mankato, not only as bars, but as a community embraced the bystander intervention program, we would see a shift of culture. We could move from an unsafe culture, where people turn the other way when they feel uncomfortable, to a safe culture, where people speak out and say, “that is not okay with me.”

What does Bystander Intervention training prepare people for?
Bystander Intervention Certification covers important topics that include: gender stereotypes (why these are harmful), rape culture (how the media has desensitized how we view rape/assault), victim blaming myths (well, I heard she sleeps around, so she had it coming), and consent education (or lack of, and how that plays into an unsafe culture).

Session two includes topics: recognizing sexual aggression, bystander intervention role playing and skills, and reporting/response.

What has been the most difficult aspect of encouraging a Safe Bar environment in Mankato?
Because these are issues that are not talked about enough, there is a lack of understanding for the need we have in our community. Without the willingness of our community to receive the education and be open to it, we will get nowhere.

What has your response been from the MNSU campus and the Mankato community?
Campus has slowly but surely been extremely supportive. In the past few weeks, we have seen a peak in interest from student groups and others to support our cause. The media campaign and tabling has helped. The Mankato Community is also slowly becoming aware of our presence. CADA is such an unknown organization within our community, so as we move forward and continue to grow, I see great support coming our way.

Who has joined the Safe Bar Initiative in Mankato?
With more attention being brought to this issue, more businesses in our area are committing to hosting the five hour Bystander Intervention Certification training for their staff.

Pub 500 was the first business in the city to go through the Bystander Intervention Certification training, and more businesses are taking the initiative to make Mankato bars and businesses safer, including The Coffee Hag, Midtown Tavern, Jake’s on Stadium, and Patrick’s in St. Peter.
We would like to thank these businesses for taking a step towards safety and encourage all interested groups to set aside the time for this crucial training.

How can I get involved?
If you are an owner or manager of a Mankato-area establishment who wants to join the Safe Bar Initiative, CADA representatives will schedule and direct Bystander Intervention training with individuals and groups.
If you are a campus group or college student, you are eligible for free Bystander Intervention training. As individuals in the community, we are able to create safer bar environments.

HER Campus here at MNSU was the first campus group to go through the training, responding with two articles through the HER Campus site. We Want A Safe Bar was written by Elise Pawlak, and addressed the Safe Bar Initiative and supplied information on how students could get involved on campus and in the community.

Elise Pawlak and Leah Rost also published a piece on Pub 500, celebrating the downtown establishment’s dedication to the well-being of patrons:

“As if the homemade potato chips and entertaining events weren’t enough to draw you in; there’s nothing better than knowing that there is a safe place to drink where the staff is genuinely concerned with your well-being, not just your bar tab.”

These articles, more information on SBI, and upcoming events can be found here.

So what can students do to get involved with the Safe Bar Initiative? Take part in the April 1 Rally in Downtown Mankato 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

“We will be standing outside the bars in the plaza with signs pressuring the bars to take part in the SBI,” said Trickel.

There is also the April 24 2nd Annual Safe Bar Initiative 5K at Riverfront Park at 10 a.m.

“We need runners and volunteers,” she said. “Essentially we are looking for more male involvement and representation. If anybody is interested in volunteering or interning with the SBI, please contact me (”

Facebook pages are available for the Safe Bar Initiative, 2nd Annual Safe Bar Initiative 5K, and the Downtown Rally. The Safe Bar Initiative will continue to table on campus in Mav Ave and the Taylor Center, collecting the images featured in this article.

It’s no longer a question of whether Mankato wants safer bars; it’s now up to Mankato bars to show us that they are willing to do what it takes to make their bars safe. We encourage students and members of our community to “keep the tab, and the conversation, open.”

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