Arlington trains restaurant, bar staff to reduce alcohol harm, make night life safer

The bar and restaurant scene is growing by leaps and bounds in Arlington, Virginia. The county has accredited 30 bars and restaurants and wants more to join a voluntary program designed to make night life safer.

The Arlington Restaurant Initiative program provides standards and special training aimed at reducing the harm from alcohol.

“They’ve taught us a lot of things as far as recognizing signs of intoxication, how to prevent underage drinking better,” said Tony Rivenbark, a 17-year manager at Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant in Crystal City.

“It’s not us against them, it’s us working together and that has been what I’ve seen the biggest positive outcome from this,” he said.

To sport the accreditation sticker on the front door, restaurants and bar staff also undergo CPR training.

“VHC (Virginia Hospital Center) and the Arlington County Fire Department, through the Hands2Hearts program, they teach hands-only CPR. You literally learn how to perform chest compressions and use an AED machine,” said Master Officer Dimitrios Mastoras, who is a Restaurant Liaison Officer with Arlington County police.

“We provide training and policies for the restaurants to improve their safety and we work in collaboration with them, it’s a great partnership,” Mastoras said.

The program is not yet a year old but 30 restaurants have already been accredited. There are more than 300 establishments serving alcohol in Arlington County and the program organizers hope more will get on the bandwagon.

The Arlington Restaurant Initiative is modeled after a similar program in the United Kingdom and it includes the covert plea for help “Ask for Angela.” If someone who witnesses or is a victim of a potential sexual assault that can go to a restaurant staffer and “Ask for Angela.”

“That’s their cue to help this patron … they don’t have to validate their complaint or validate why they feel uncomfortable; they simply ask them ‘What can I do for you?’ that means getting you a ride home … calling the police,” Mastoras said.

The program began with restaurants in Clarendon and is spreading to establishments in Crystal City, on the Columbia Pike and in Shirlington.

Arlington County police car are using this car to promote SoberRide. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
An Arlington County police car promotes SoberRide. SoberRide lets you get home safely. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
A panel discusses the Arlington Restaurant Initiative. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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