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By in Queers & Beers Comments Off on Pissing in Bars | The importance of single-stall bathrooms

Pissing in Bars | The importance of single-stall bathrooms

Why do we want single-stall bathrooms?

I believe that if you serve people beverages that make them have to piss, make them more emotional, randy or contemplative (i.e. beer) and you intend for your guests to be around your bar for a few hours, you have a responsibility to ensure they can use your bathrooms in a comfortable, safe way. And in whatever way they need to. And as many times as they need to without waiting in an ungodly line up.

There’s a lot in there, I know. But bathroom needs are serious, immediate needs. And bathrooms aren’t just used to evacuate fluids. They’re used for phone calls, surfing Facebook when you need a breather from your pals or date, making out with someone(s) for a hot minute that’s just a toe over the line of “too much time in the bathroom shit there’s people waiting” and of course ripping farts and standing there while it airs out. There are more things. Mostly all private things you don’t want to do in front of other people.

Georgie Dudka, Good Robot Brewing Company's Events Director in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Cool person, Georgie and Sam (Offsite Events) being fresh.

Most of these things are impossible to do in a multi-stall, typical bathroom. There’s an extra wrench that gets thrown into it for me when I’m greeted with gendered, multi-stall bathrooms. Which is mostly. This doesn’t impact everyone the same way but I’m going to focus on me for a minute here.

Hi Halifax, I’m Georgie, I’m 31, I’m transgender. I use gender-neutral or male pronouns where applicable, and when I go into a bar and I’m faced with gendered, multi-stall bathrooms, I immediately become uncomfortable and uneasy and want to leave the establishment. I mean, physically/presentation-wise I look very masculine but using this type of bathroom is not ideal for me.

Reasons multi-stall bathrooms suck for transgender folks

Reasons it sucks in the Men’s bathroom for me:

  • I piss sitting down and people can tell because my boots aren’t facing the toilet.
  • If they don’t think about the latter too hard they then hear the toilet paper being pulled and there’s definitely a lightbulb moment for some people.
  • I know people notice in the men’s bathroom – because sometimes they eye me up and down when I leave the stall. And it makes me feel gross inside, even though I’m turbo attractive and even if that’s not the intention of the person eyeing me.
  • Also men’s bathrooms inevitably smell like dank piss.

Reasons it sucks in the Women’s bathroom for me:

  • I present very masculine and most women freak out (obv) if I go into the bathroom (so I don’t anymore ever!)
  • In moments while I was beginning to transition, I would still use the women’s bathroom as it was more comfortable for me, and I would feel horrible when people would tell me “you don’t belong here”. Not because I cared I didn’t belong – I did belong and didn’t at the same time and who cares. But I was causing obvious discomfort for the women in the space. And it weighed on me. And it seemed hard and/or unnecessary to explain. And I started holding my pee too frequently and dreading public bathroom use.
BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Georgie Dudka

Kelly, Georgie and cool person brewing a BetaBrew.

From my personal POV based on my identities, there’s this paranoia that goes along with someone “finding out” that I don’t own a penis in men’s multi-stall bathroom situations that creates an unnecessarily jolting experience regardless of how it’s perceived by the other folks in the bathroom. I just get nervous of potential aggression, which has happened in my past and will continue to I’m sure. So when I walk into local bars and taprooms that don’t offer me a comfortable and safe place to piss, I generally leave. Solidarity to trans and non-binary people in these situations, because there are common feelings and consequences for us in bathrooms that other people don’t have to go through.

There are caveats to my bathroom feelings, obviously. For me they are businesses/bars I know very well and have a great relationship with. Like Charlie’s on Maynard! I know the staff so well that I feel very protected there regardless of the gendered bathroom situation. I also acknowledge that staff are not responsible for engineering and building bathrooms. So, you know, support the places and people that support you.

Need-wise, I’m also one of the people that make out in bathrooms, or need a spot to hide on my phone away from my pals. I’m not the person that broke your bar’s bathroom sink though. Because not all people that make out in bathrooms break them, that’s a shitty myth.

What can businesses do?

From a business perspective, if you own a business, I challenge you to consider how many people may feel uncomfortable in the establishment because they can’t piss or cry or poop or make out comfortably. I’ve walked from many a bar I was having a decent time at because I had no access to privacy or my own particular needs around bathroom safety. I do believe that private, single-stall bathrooms are becoming one of the most important fundamental services you can offer someone in a bar for a variety of reasons.

I also understand that for many places – we can’t go back in time and just create single-stall bathrooms. Occupancy for a bar (or any building) is built on both square footage and availability of “male” and “female” bathrooms. And for bars that have been around awhile, there can’t be a sudden expectation to just allocate a budget to bathroom renovations that don’t technically need to happen. That could be too much for a small business to undertake. Though, if you do renovate, you can always pull a Local and go turbo by making your bathrooms multi-single-gender-neutral stalls by walling them in and installing doors that run to the floor. We don’t need to be fancy about it, folks just need to use the space privately.

Katie Whitlock and Georgie Dudka at Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax.

Katie (Onsite Events) and Georgie.

What I would really like to see are NEW bars that open supporting trans and non-binary folks by designing gender-neutral, single-stall bathrooms. Then, simultaneously, you support people who need a place to have some immediate privacy (pooping, crying, farting, etc.) in order to continue having a good time later. And really, you can never underrate pooping in private, single-stall bathrooms versus pooping in a multi-stall room.

From safety issues for some folks, to comfort and privacy for others – gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms are a great way to show care for people (and let people care for themselves) in a bar or taproom. And while we’re at it! If you see folks in a bathroom who you think “don’t belong there”, remember: It’s truly not your concern, ever, where other people use the bathroom, unless it’s on your floor.

FAQ on gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms

Question: But, Georgie, What about people that don’t understand gender neutral/single-stall bathrooms? How do we explain?

Answer: Gender neutral bathrooms do confuse some people though usually just initially. For most who are new to it, it’s easy to explain.

Try:

  • “They all have locking doors and are separate rooms, so take your pick!”
  • “You can use the bathroom for anything – they’re clean and private if you need a spot for a phone call or what have you”
  • “Your bathroom at home is single-stall and gender neutral, it’s the same here!”
Georgie Dudka, Events Director at Good Robot, Halifax's most questionable craft brewery.

Georgie just killin’ it.

Other folks have a harder time with the principle, so if they become persistent (which some do, “but WHICH bathroom is for MEN”), I like to answer with oddness, confidence and mystery.

Try:

  • “Oh right, sorry for not telling you earlier, men can only pee on the right side of the bathroom or the bar poltergeist starts flushing all the toilets at once and slamming the doors which immediately makes all the customers uneasy obv. Not your fault of course, we’re fine, we’re used to it here, it’s just our manager has to go through this really arduous ritual afterwards” and then slowly shrug.
  • “I just stand in the entrance and smell all the stalls one by one, that’s how I pick”

Question: What if there are already single-stall bathrooms in the bar BUT they are separated and gendered? How do I fix this?

Answer: Change the signs on the door, bam!

Question: How would people know they are actually bathrooms without pictures of cartoon stick people on the door?

Answer: Put a picture of the international sign for toilets on the door: A toilet

Question: Since you just said all this shit, does Good Robot have gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms that I can make out and/or cry and/or go on IG and/or poop in?

Answer: 100%

Got more? All your gender-neutral, single-stall bathroom questions answered by e-mailing [email protected]

_____

Georgie Dudka is Good Robot Brewing’s Events Director.

By in Brewing, Events, Taproom Comments Off on Women in Brewing | Bettering Our Industry

Women in Brewing | Bettering Our Industry

What I’ve Learned

Hi everybody! It’s Kelly, your friendly neighbourhood BetaBrew Manager. I’ve been in this business for a little over a year now. The robotic nest I inhabit has been pretty close to perfect. Warm enough. Safe enough. Just enough worms vomited in my direction for me to really thrive. I’ve learned things from everyone around me – including some of my fellow women in brewing – and been encouraged to seek out facts from other beautiful brains (EMILY TIPTON, I LOVE YOU). I’ve been given access to resources, supplies, equipment, and seemingly bottomless Meatball Heros (Thank you, Sam and Tony). I’ve been pushed to improve my brewing practice and my character… and my punctuality. Space has been made for me in ways that I never expected.

But that’s within my nest.

Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Irene

Kelly & Irene brew Virgo Saison, a grissette.

Beyond that, sometimes I feel safe and warm and sometimes people even puke worms at me, which is nice. It’s familiar. Often, especially in other breweries/nests, people share their information and experiences. They seem to really recognize that the more everyone knows about beer and how it’s made, the better it gets, which is what we want. Usually, I can ask questions, be it about water profiles or hop utilization methods or a simple “what’s that” or “where can I get more worms/meatballs” and the answer is there, given to me freely.

Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello & Evelyn White brew Reclaiming My Time, which received media attention from The Coast and Metro News in Halifax

BetaBrew – Kelly, Evelyn White & friends brew “Reclaiming My Time”, a milk stout with some media attention.

The Problem I Experience

All that said, I still sometimes get laughed at, talked down to, talked over, and even sexually harassed. I’m white, cys-, hetero-, and physically able. I’m soaring in privilege and I still get the bird-shit end of the stick sometimes. This isn’t a “wah wah, everything sucks” message. This is a plea that if we’re going to put so much energy into bettering our beer, then we should also put energy into bettering our beer environments. Socially, and not just for women in brewing, but everyone. We need to crack through the happy shell we’re incubating in and puke encouragement onto the next wave of worm-lovers. Wait, the metaphor is becoming a metamorphosis… You know what I mean! My brewing does not impede your brewing. So yay! Let’s all make beer and eat worms!

FemmeBot Homebrew Competition

Oh, and in the spirit of bettering our beer environments, I’m organizing FemmeBot Homebrew Takeover, a homebrew competition targeted at women in brewing and fabulous femmes. The rules are simple:

  • Who? FemmeBots (female and female-presenting brewers).
  • What? Beer must be pre-Prohibition style (from when brewing was truly a woman’s job).
  • When? March 1st is deadline for submission: 4 x 351mL bottles (or equivalent) with recipe, ABV, name and brewer’s info. Here is the submission form. March 7th (International Women’s Day weekend), winners announced at FemmeBrew Tap Takeover.
  • Where? Drop off at Good Robot. Winners announced at Good Robot.
Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Maria Josey & Erica Fraser brew a mole beer

BetaBrew – Kelly, Maria & Erica brew Holy Mole, a brown ale with mole.

Sign up here and help get the word out. Happy brewing.

By in Uncategorized Comments Off on Harassment & Hospitality – An Owner’s Perspective

Harassment & Hospitality – An Owner’s Perspective

I’ve had a couple of run-ins with what you might call harassment – two weeks ago, a patron told me he wanted to have my, uh, manhood in his mouth, and then went into other details I’d rather not elaborate on without a few beers. But by and large, I’m rarely subjected to it even though I spend a lot of time in my own bar. Why? Well, for one, I identify as a straight, white male. For another, I’m one of the owners, and harassment often seems to occur when patrons expect servitude from their servers. Most of my familiarity with harassment comes from incidents the staff report to me, and typically those incidents only get reported when I extract them.

Dan Hendricken Good Robot Brewing Halifax Nova Scotia

It hurts to think that a business I helped to open could foster an environment conducive to harassment. It hurts to think that our staff – our family – deal with harassment on a regular basis. I am dating one of our staff, and it makes me furious to hear what they occasionally have to deal with as a server. And yet, in the hospitality industry, this seems to be the norm. Workplace BC indicates hospitality is the industry with the highest proportion of bullying and harassment complaints, with most of the complaints being against management. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United confirms these findings with at least 90% of women working in tipped restaurant positions dealing with harassment in some form, and at least two-thirds of female workers and over half of male workers experiencing some form of sexual harassment from management. The latter part of both studies is troubling: the root of the problem stems from the top down.

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Dani, who is a bartender here on the weekends and a psychologist during the week, elaborated on the “bartender effect” from the popular show How I Met Your Mother: people (mainly women) in service industry professions such as bartending are perceived as more attractive because they are in that profession. The reality is not far off – it is symptomatic of how highly sexualized the service industry is. This is clearly evidenced in many restaurants and bars which encourage or insist their staff look or present themselves a certain way for the benefit and pleasure of the patrons. Likewise, the ‘customer is always right’ motto being prevalent in the industry produces a feeling of having to tolerate sexual harassment and unwanted advances because it is “just part of the job.” It also reinforces a clear power imbalance between patron and server that already exists since the server cannot remove themselves from the reality of job security, tips, management, etc. This has a cyclical impact on the sexualization of the service industry.

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Dani also noted that the sexualization of the service industry fosters social distancing, or an ‘othering’ of service industry professionals, meaning bartenders, servers, etc., are perceived as somehow different from everyone else. This produces a feeling of distance between the harasser and their harassee, almost as though the harassee is not a regular person you met through friends, or at work, etc. This results in frequently heard comments like “she can take it”, or “she’s used to it”, or ‘I didn’t mean anything by it’, thereby excusing culpability or responsibility with the justification that a service interaction is not the same as any other, and therefore doesn’t have to follow conventional social rules. This is how an otherwise nice person can act like a shithead towards their server.

Kelly Costello Good Robot Brewing Halifax

About a year ago, I remember hearing about harassment at our workplace for the first time. Our bartender Jill, who enjoys wearing crop-tops, received frequent unwanted feedback from patrons of all genders who either accosted her for promoting patriarchy, belittled her for dressing scantily, took her choice of clothing as an opportunity to hit on her aggressively, or attempted to defend her against Good Robot’s sexist dress codes. I had a hard time believing that someone as kind and giving as Jill could be treated so poorly, especially by patrons of my business. Since then, I’ve realized two things:

  1. Staff will rarely voluntarily tell me about incidents of harassment; rather, I have to inquire about them; and
  2. Harassment is prevalent in my establishment, regardless of how hard we’ve tried to make our place open, welcoming and comfortable.

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Here are a few incidents – some recurring – over the past couple of months that staff have dealt with:

  • patrons expressing their undying love for staff members (recurring);
  • patrons waiting around for a certain staff member’s shift to start in order to ask them on a date, and/or inquiring with other staff and patrons as to the relationship availability of said staff member (recurring);
  • a patron telling a staff member to “sit on their face”;
  • patrons grabbing our staff’s exposed skin to get their attention (recurring);
  • patrons groping staff (recurring);
  • a patron called a staff member a “bitch” after being cut off;
  • a patron telling a queer patron he would “fuck her straight”;
  • patrons adding their servers on social media platforms and sending them inappropriate messages after hours (recurring);
  • etc. And these are just over the last couple months.

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We recently held a staff meeting to discuss how we could change this culture. Our staff chimed in with specific incidents and how they were dealt with effectively. Ultimately, each incident and its consequence were unique, so it’s difficult to address a complex problem with a simple solution. We thought it might help to share some incidents and how they were dealt with effectively for all those in the industry who deal with this bullshit on the regular:

  • Inform the manager immediately. It’s good to have two sets of eyes on anyone disrupting the workplace.
  • Take note of the incident in the communications book or equivalent, including a descriptor of the harasser.
  • Sass back. Sometimes, an effective way to put a patron in their place is to be sassier or more clever than them.
    • Example: After a server was touched on the leg by a patron trying to get their attention, the server replied, “Order with your mouth, not with your hands.”
  • Be direct. Be firm. Tell the harasser you don’t appreciate the way they interacted with you and explain why.
    • Example: “I enjoyed serving you up until you said those things to me. I am a server, not a servant, and the way you treated me was grossly inappropriate.”
  • Talk to them in private. This has been effectively used with the above tactic in many instances at our establishment.
  • Talk to the most reasonable person in their party, if there is one. Mention you don’t want to embarrass their friend in front of everyone but that their friend is being inappropriate. Sometimes, hearing from a friend that you are acting inappropriately is more significant than hearing it from a stranger.
  • If the above items have not worked, it’s time to cut people off and/or kick people out. Be direct. Be firm. Point to the door. Repeat.

Harassment Meeting at Good Robot Brewing Halifax

Going back to a stat from earlier in this article, most harassment occurs from top-down. Most hospitality business owners – hell, most hospitality business management – I know are great people. I like to think that they would be disappointed to know what happens to their staff in a day. So, here are three things owners and managers can do to help eliminate systematic harassment in hospitality:

  1. Encourage the discussion. Staff often feel uncomfortable coming forward out of fear of retribution from the accused or those who take the side of the accused, demotion, or even losing their job. And calling out a patron (or employee) for sexual harassment when that patron (or employee) believes they were “just fooling around” is difficult. In my experience, the accused get very defensive and try to justify their behaviour or otherwise seek instant forgiveness. It’s important to let them know exactly what they did and why it was wrong.
  2. Implement a harassment policy. Up until last month, our Good Robot “Manifesto” did not include a section on discrimination and harassment. It’s important to put it in writing and impress it upon every staff member upon hiring. Within this policy, be sure to include the path of action a harassee should take upon incident, especially who they should go to.
  3. Confront it. Change is uncomfortable. I can tell you that it sucks to tell your own patrons they’ve behaved inappropriately. It sucks to give your own patrons, many of whom may be long-time customers or really love your spot, a formal warning about inappropriate behaviour. I want my customers to feel good and welcome. However, if you believe in your staff and want the best for them and your patrons, it is important to confront the perpetrator. I, myself, tend to learn lessons best when I suffer with guilt. And chances are the perpetrator will never act in such a manner again. Remember Dani’s point: sexualization of the industry and social “othering” can lead an otherwise good person to act shitty. It happens.

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Harassment is a topic that cannot be resolved in one article. Likewise, I largely focused herein on sexual harassment as applied to non-male staff. Harassment and discrimination take many forms against many people. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has an excellent write-up on the matter. This is just a starting point to hopefully encourage some discussion. Or it might go completely unnoticed. Either way, I want my family to know they don’t have to tolerate harassment.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExMYM9VuaVQ[/embedyt]

 

By in Uncategorized 5

On hospitality and mental health

It’s a funny old game this business of slinging drinks. As I speedily approach my ten year “hospoversary” (hospitality anniversary), I spend more time reflecting on my time in the industry, what it has given to me, and what it has taken from me.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

At its core, I love it with all my heart. Through my interactions with the many amazing customers and co-workers I’ve met throughout the years, I’ve become close to people from all walks of life. From discussing Camus in the dishpit, to talking footy over the bar, between front and back of house we’ve solved all of the world’s problems. The people with whom I have engaged in discourse with have opened my eyes, shared some amazing things with me, and I do my absolute best to reiterate this, giving the best of myself to every interaction. Some of the best times I have had in my life have been enjoyed on both sides of the bar, with the people I have worked with, and the people who I have worked for: my eternal boss, the customers. I love it, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

However there is a darker side to this industry, particularly for those suffering from mental health disorders. This dark side is one that I rarely share with people in my professional capacity, as no-one wants to hear about their bartender’s shitty day when they’re enjoying a beer. But at the same time, this industry can run you into the ground and spit you out. The long hours, late nights, hectic work environments, constant excuses to drink, and anti-social schedules can force a person into seclusion.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

When you’re working, your friends are drinking and socialising. When your friends are drinking and socialising, you’re working. So you drink when you’re not working. Whether it’s pounding beers till 7am after your shift, or sitting on 3 bottles of red wine on your day off because it’s a Tuesday and everyone else is at their “real jobs”.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

As someone living with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder, this “routine” has led to some very self-destructive periods in my life. It isolated me, it got in the way of friendships and relationships, and threw me into a hole that I was lucky enough to make it out of. Some are not so lucky. The immense lows that a bipolar sufferer endures were compounded by the drinking, the lack of sleep, and the separation from my loved ones.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

But as I’ve been told so many times, the key to everything is balance. The highs that this industry offers me more than make up for the crushing lows, and it’s a game that I’ll play for a long while yet. While the industry intrinsically has its problems, the people that I’ve met and shared my time behind the bar with and the moments we’ve shared have made it all worth it. It’s a simple as a customer enjoying a beer I’ve poured them, a thank you as they leave the bar, a wind-down beer with a co-worker after a shift. As I grow older, the balance is shifting more in my favour, and the good times are outweighing the bad.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

Keep your chin up, and let’s grab a beer sometime.