Bar Safety for late night workers

By KBJR News 1

November 1, 2013 Updated Nov 2, 2013 at 5:01 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.COM)

Just months ago a Willow River bartender, in her seventies was robbed and pistol whipped as she readied the bar for closure.

In 1999 the nation mourned 19 year old Katie Poirier, who was kidnapped from a Moose Lake convenience store and brutally murdered.

The heinous crime sparked lawmakers and concerned citizens to push for regulation for convenience store workers throughout the state.

The crime brought about many changes for late night stores but did little to change behavior in bars that stay open into the wee hours of the morning.

Some bar owners do take these concerns seriously.

"We do have majority of men working the late night shifts and the women the earlier shifts. But when we do have females working late at night we require that somebody's working with them," says Kate Wagner, Co-Owner of the Breeze Inn on Jean Duluth Rd.

Wagner also stresses that the closers are always walked to their cars.

"I hope everybody does it but I don't know if it's as common as it should be," Wagner adds.

The beating of 73 year old bartender Geri Youngberg suggests otherwise.

Across the bridge...Wisconsin sports a number of rural bars. State Representative Nick Milroy is concerned about the lack of regulation in these situations.

"Serving in some of those types of jobs can be extremely risky...we have people handling a lot of cash that comes through a business whether it's a convenience store or a tavern. There are safety concerns there...and it's one of those things where you really have to sit down with all the interested parties and try to come up with a compromise that works for everyone," says Rep. Milroy.

Many bar owners feel they should be able to determine their own level of safety measures based on circumstance.

But Luann Hanson, who has worked at the Elmwood Inn in Carlton for twenty years, disagrees.

"I think it should be for all establishments...whether it is a bar, a restaurant, a convenience store... you should always have two people on staff for safety measures. "

That's policy at the Elmwood Inn.

A proposed law called for clear video recording devices and panic alarms to be installed at all Minnesota convenience stores... Rules that could prove useful in bars as well.

"Given the state of modern technology, both in terms of being able to make an immediate call for help and record goings on in any business establishment, is so much advance there's very little excuse for not having it," says Co-Author of proposed convenience store safety legislation.

Hanson fears rural bars can be especially vulnerable to crime.

"I just think that when you're being out secluded you're more vulnerable. You don't have anybody to hear your yells your screams."

"It really dark so we don't have the street lights like you do in town so it's dark so we just want to be safe want everybody to be safe," Wagner adds.

Safety for all workers...no matter the time.

While Minnesota and Wisconsin laws don't currently require more than one person on duty after 11 p–m in bars, the U–S Occupational Safety and Health Administration strongly recommends increasing staffing levels after 11.

They also recommend the installation of video surveillance equipment and panic alarms with a reliable, rapid response.

Posted to the web by Gabrielle Ware
gware@kbjr.com