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Program trains Patchogue bartenders to handle potential violence

Fulton's Gate Irish Pub owner James Gilroy, left,

Fulton's Gate Irish Pub owner James Gilroy, left, and bartender Mark Fohl, listen as Tara Davidson of L.I. Against Domestic Violence leads a training class on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A Long Island nonprofit group that created a training program to help bars identify different forms of violence and sexual abuse is launching the initiative in Patchogue.

East Hampton-based The Retreat Inc., a domestic violence services agency, partnered with L.I. Against Domestic Violence for the Safe Bar Initiative to train bartenders and security staff on how to handle potentially violent situations.

The program is backed by funding from the New York State Department of Health with the aim of reducing sexual assault and violence in establishments that serve alcohol.

“We’re trying to create a safe environment for our community when it comes to nightlife,” said The Retreat project coordinator Nicole Keller, who spearheaded the program. “We’re giving these people that work at bars the tools to use to intervene safely to reduce violence.”

The training takes place over a pair of two-hour sessions. Patchogue is one of six locations statewide — and the only one on the Island — where the program is being offered.

Fulton’s Gate Irish Pub owner James Gilroy had his bartenders participate in the first of the training classes this week.

“It highlights your rights as employees and as an employer,” Gilroy said. “Sometimes we’re not sure what we’re allowed to do in certain situations without putting the bar or my employees in jeopardy.”

During the course of a night, any woman or man may be sexually assaulted, need a ride to a car or may have had too much to drink, he said.

“Patchogue has become such a popular hot spot for young people so it just makes sense that this would be a good spot to really start educating and getting the information out,” said David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. “We think it’s great. Anything we can do to create a safer and healthier environment in our community is always something we would support.”

The Retreat’s main mission is to prevent domestic violence, which officials say occasionally happens in bars.

More than 12 million women and men annually are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The bar initiative started last June but has been slow to grow.

“It’s about spreading awareness about violence and how it correlates to alcohol,” said Keller, adding That Meetball Place, a restaurant serving alcohol on West Main Street, has also agreed to be part of the program.

“It’s a great idea,” Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said. “The training would help those serving drinks recognize potentially dangerous situations.”

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