When Whistle Buoy opened in 2019 we had the opportunity to start from scratch, a blank canvas to enact and promote all the values we hold as a group without the baggage of past follies. Our leadership team developed a foundational document stating our purpose, mission, vision and values: quality, authenticity, team first, local, responsible, and inclusive. We assumed stating these internally and sharing them with our staff would be a sufficient step to foster the kind of atmosphere we wanted, an inclusive and respectful space free of harassment, discrimination and bullying.
By the end of 2021 a wave of reports of sexualized violence and assault in Victoria were made public by survivors of this abuse, the majority of which happened in the hospitality industry. These acts of harm are so often carried out in bars, restaurants, and spaces like ours. Similarly, a reckoning was happening in the craft beer industry, with hundreds of reports of harassment, bullying, sexual violence and abuse being shared online about individuals at breweries of all sizes around the world. It became clear that it was not a coincidence that this tidal wave of reports about abuse in our industry was happening.
As long time members of the hospitality industry, we had all heard stories of power dynamics where one employee was made to feel uncomfortable by another, or of someone being harassed or touched in the workplace without consent. As disturbing as they were, these stories were easy to shrug off as an isolated incident involving a “bad apple”, but were rarely taken seriously. This culture of microaggressions and tolerating abuse was and is wrong. Too often, an incident was assumed to be no big deal, where the real story was likely buried with fear of speaking out and being targeted or shamed.
The reality is, our society has tolerated these behaviours in hospitality environments because they have been seen as places for people to celebrate, unwind, and loosen up over some drinks. As so many businesses do, we participated in this culture without even realizing it. To be clear, there have been no reports of abuse or sexual violence in our space, but the point is that without being aware of this possibility and proactively preventing harrasment and abuse, the likelyhood for an event like this to occur will continue to increase until one day it’s too late. Like many of our colleagues in this industry, we have been grappling with how to create safer spaces and respond to this persistent issue and reshape the expectations of what behaviour is tolerated in our spaces, and specifically, what is NOT acceptable. Whether it’s an internal incident between team members, between a patron and a staff member, or between multiple guests in our space, we need to be accountable for what goes on and how people are treated between our walls.
Just because people are consuming alcohol and “partying” does not give license for anyone to disrespect another person, whether they’re “joking” or otherwise. Allowing microaggressions, bullying, harassment, or non-consensual sexual advances to happen in a space creates a culture where violence and abuse begin to creep in.
With the help of an organization called Good Night Out, we began the first step in the process of creating a safer space, by completing a three-hour introductory workshop that covers a basic understanding of what constitutes sexual violence, what meaningful consent looks like, and how to reduce harm in a variety of nightlife environments. We have since developed a code of conduct with our team, which is a statement of what we expect from every individual in our space.
Our code of conduct:
“At Whistle Buoy Brewing, we are working to create a safer space and like our beer, an experience that is enjoyable for all, regardless of identity. This means:
No hateful language of any kind
Discrimination, harrassment, and bullying are NOT tolerated here.
We are proud to promote a culture of inclusivity, respect, acceptance, and fun!
Anyone who violates this Code of Conduct will be spoken with and we reserve the right to remove anyone who is acting contrary to this Code.
Please talk to our team if something or someone is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You can also let us know by email: email@example.com”
This simple statement is a tool for us to remind each other that we all must be treated with respect. In our minds this is basic common courtesy, treat others how you would like to be treated. If you don’t, you’ll get a reminder, if you’re not into that, go somewhere else.
We believe that creating safer spaces is a constant work in progress, and that a code of conduct is not going to solve the world’s problems, but it’s a meaningful start that we take seriously, and we’re committed to continue learning how to do better and enacting tools to help everyone in our space feel as safe as possible.
Cheers, Team WB