It’s Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in downtown Akron, and Brubaker’s Pub is packed with genial men and women hugging the long, curved bar and sitting at tables inside and out.

General Manager Gabriel Miller dashes about behind the bar, pouring drinks, taking cash and swiping credit cards.

He is the center of attention, and smiles at a couple of middle-aged women trying to flirt with him.

It’s a scene of seething hormones unlocked by a steady stream of beer and liquor — hardly the place to learn about the dangers of roaming predators and excessive drinking.

But Leanne Biltz, education and outreach manager for Hope and Healing in Akron, thinks just the opposite.

To that end, Biltz, Hope and Healing staff members and volunteers brought the word to bars in the Akron area on Saturday and again on Wednesday.

Hope and Healing’s message is simple: The use of date rape drugs is on the rise and is unacceptable. What better place, Biltz believes, to teach and warn about the issue than the places people go to drink?

Ohia Thompson, a volunteer and outreach advocate with Hope and Healing, said 30 establishments were visited Saturday, and about half of those allowed rape crisis flyers to be posted in the men’s and women’s bathrooms.

“It was amazing,” said Thompson, who runs the Bar Outreach Project for Biltz. “I didn’t expect so many people to be so open.”

Some establishments were even more receptive to the message, working with Hope and Healing for 90-minute training sessions that help staff become active in the battle against drug facilitated sexual assaults (DFSA).

Miller said he’s on board with that message and makes sure his employees are, also. A co-owner of the six Brubaker’s in the Akron area alerted him to the Hope and Healing initiative against DFSA.

“If anyone comes into my bar with those intentions, I don’t want them in my bar,” Miller said.

Because of the establishment’s proximity to the University of Akron and housing for UA students, Miller said he sees a lot of 21-year-olds who’ve never imbibed before. They don’t know what they’re doing and can easily overdo it. He sees his job as helping to guard against people trying to take advantage of his patrons.

“A lot of people don’t know how big an issue it is,” Miller said. “I try to make everyone get home safe.”

Thompson said it was important to Hope and Healing to touch base with university bars, because the potential for abuse is significant among young people. Drugs like rohypnol (roofies), GHB and Ambien appear frequently in the news, but Thompson said alcohol remains the No. 1 DFSA drug.

Biltz said the program is off to a good start. Besides Brubaker’s, Annabell’s Bar & Lounge on West Market and Quarter Up Bar Arcade in Akron both have indicated a desire for Hope and Healing’s training.

And that’s what Biltz hoped for.

“I want to empower the bartenders to step in and possibly prevent an assault,” Biltz said. “We want to create a culture of consent.”

For more information, go to https://hopeandhealingresources.org/.

 

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjournal.