Bar safety: Bartenders watch over customers, aim to protect
5 mins read

Bar safety: Bartenders watch over customers, aim to protect

This is the third and final part of an ongoing story on date rape drugs and safety in social drinking.

Dakota Brickhouse is one of eight bars in downtown Vermillion. They try to watch all of their customers to ensure a safe and fun drinking environment. 

One of the ways they have improved safety is through the use of a camera, which came about as an accident. 

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Josh Scherrer, Dakota Brickhouse’s general manager, runs a social media page where he said he tries to capture what nightlife is like in Vermillion. While he started bringing a camera to Brickhouse just to gain more experience, he said he noticed when he brings it out, people actually start behaving better, which improves safety. 

“The atmosphere changes (when I bring the camera out),” Scherrer said. “The other night, we had a kid who got into a fight and another kid bumped into him and they were drunk, so they got all heated… I went over to him and I was holding the camera and he looked at that and then looked at me and instantly calmed down.” 

Scherrer said Brickhouse doesn’t have specific training on how to watch for date rape drugging situations, they focus on keeping their customers safe on a general level. 

If a Brickhouse employee were to see drugging taking place, Scherrer said they would immediately call the police and let them take care of it from there. Along with other bartenders, he will often drive people home if they appear to need assistance, he said. 

“(Training) is generalized — pay attention to people around here. If you see somebody in the corner that’s passing out, let’s deal with it now. If you see fight starting or if you see any type of assaults in the building, that needs to be dealt with,” Scherrer said. “There isn’t a written plan for every type of scenario but we do generalize talk about safety and what it means to be a person who’s serving alcohol.” 

Scherrer said it’s impossible for bartenders to see everything that happens in a bar, especially if it’s busy. In order to limit the number of things that go unseen, Scheerer said Brickhouse makes sure they have a full staff every night.

With how Brickhouse’s bar faces, bartenders are able to watch the whole restaurant, Scheerer said, which helps limit incidents. 

“The best way that we’ve found to take care of all those things is just by having enough staff to watch,” Scherrer said. 

Since moving to Vermillion, Scherrer said the biggest safety concern he sees is people over consuming and over-serving alcohol. 

“The biggest thing that I’ve seen is we will get people who come in here from other bars, and they will instantly walk in, sit down, we won’t serve them. They’ll be like passing out,” Scherrer said. “I’ve had to call ambulances before but I’ve never had to do that for anybody who was in (Brickhouse the entire night).”

Scherrer said while Vermillion is a relatively safe place, date rape drugs and other safety concerns associated with drinking still happen. When he first moved to Vermillion, he said he drank one of his girlfriend’s drinks, which ended up being drugged. 

“I think that every place has an issue with it. I know that I’ve heard enough people think, or have been a drug and I believe I have,” Scherrer said. “Anywhere you go, there’s an issue with it.”

People need to know these druggings do happen, even in Vermillion, Scherrer said. If people who are out drinking are aware of these risks, he said they will be less likely to fall victim. 

“If you think it won’t happen to you, you’re more likely going to have it happen to you because you’re not being cautious of it,” Scherrer said. “And yeah, it sucks, but that’s just the way it is; that’s just our world.”

The Volante reached out to the other bars in town, none of them made a comment early enough for publication. The Volante also reached out to Vermillion Police Department to get the incident report on the incident discussed in the first part of the series of stories regarding date rape drugs, but the report is not open to the public as it is still an ongoing investigation.