Toronto bar offering free self-defence classes for women amid safety concerns

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WATCH ABOVE: The Nightowl is offering free self-defence classes for women every Wednesday throughout March – Mar 3, 2017

A Toronto bar is getting pro-active about the safety of its female patrons.

The Nightowl will be offering free self-defence classes for women every Wednesday in March after a string of incidents took place over recent months in the Toronto bar scene, specifically targeting the safety of female patrons.

“As a staff we felt that in recent years and particularly this year, a lot of issues concerning women have been brought to light that can’t be ignored any longer,” Rubinoff told Global News.

“In an industry where ensuring everyone’s safety is very important but sometimes undervalued, we felt we could play a role by doing something to promote positive change.”

READ MORE: College Street Bar ordered closed by City of Toronto amid sexual assault allegations

Back in December, a 24-year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted inside the College Street Bar, and two men, including one of the owners have been charged in connection with the incident. The establishment itself has also been shutdown. The case is currently before the court.

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In early February, The Locals Only fired an employee after signs were put up behind the bar promoting rape culture.

Rubinoff said his female staff came together and approached him with the idea for the classes as an answer to the questions of safety being raised against the city’s bar scene.

READ MORE: Toronto bar apologizes for ‘no means yes’ sign seen as promoting rape culture

“We all collectively felt as though that this knowledge is something that has unfortunately become essential for women,” said Rubinoff.

He said the classes would be free of charge because the services offered “should be accessible to everyone and not just people who have the financial ability.”

The Nightowl has two floors, with the lower level acting as a concert area where bands perform nightly. The artists don’t usually start until later in the evening, which leaves the space empty for much of the week.

Rubinoff and his staff said they felt they could use that open time for something good.

READ MORE: Toronto bar owner, employee face more charges after woman drugged, sexually assaulted: police

“We have the empty space, so why not give back to our patrons by helping them feel safer and bringing awareness to issues that affect all of us,” said Rubinoff.

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“We figured we could utilize the space for something to give back to the community before the band starts on Wednesdays.”

Once the staff approached Rubinoff about this idea, the owner said he knew right away he wouldn’t have to go too far to find the right guy to lead the classes.

The bar is teaming up with Kennedy Tactical Concepts, a company that teaches violence prevention through education and training. It’s led by director TJ Kennedy, who also works as a security guard for The Nightowl.

READ MORE: Toronto bar’s licence under review after owner, employee charged with sexual assault

The classes themselves will be less physical, more informative and will run for two hours every Wednesday this month. There will be room for up to 40 woman a week.

Rubinoff said the response has been “overwhelmingly positive” since the posting went up just over a week ago.

The original plan was for just March, but since the message spread before the classes began, Rubinoff said he is open to exploring the idea of extending the training.

“We’re curious to see the response we get during [the month] and we’ll go from there.”

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