Kicking the offending customer out, bartenders agree, is the best action to take when he or she is harassing another patron. Swiftly, and quietly, if possible.
But how should bartenders handle a harassment situation that leaves a patron feeling unsafe?
Many women say they've dealt with unwanted, persistent attention at bars, including being groped on a barstool or on the dance floor.
Meghann Mossell remembers when a man kept grabbing her butt at Ukrainian Village bar Empty Bottle. She told a bartender, and the man was kicked out.
"Oh, my God, I'm safe here," she remembers thinking. Mossell is one of the co-founders of Chicago's chapter of Good Night Out, an international movement that offers training on how to handle sexual harassment and assault in bars, clubs and at festivals.
Bartenders said protecting customers is a priority, and that although they can't keep an eye on every customer at all times, responding when a patron feels unsafe is a key part of the job.
Besides kicking a person out, bartenders will respond by giving the offending patron the bill or by placing the next drink somewhere else on the bar, away from the person being harassed. If someone feels unsafe and wants to leave, a bartender also will offer to call a ride-share service and walk that person out to the ride.
In a situation that seems potentially dangerous, most bartenders said the best and first step is to throw the offending patron out, usually with the help of bouncers.
"If someone's coming over and asking for your help, you need to stop what you're doing," said Empty Bottle bartender Madison Moore. Helping customers feel "super safe" is a priority, she said.
Good Night Out aims to help bars and music venues develop policies to protect patrons. The group's training sessions walk through what might constitute harassment and how to respond.
Already, it's a familiar topic for bartenders. Many are aware, for example, of "angel shots," known internationally as a coded order for customers who need help.
But not every customer knows the code.
In the Fulton River District, New Line Tavern bartenders keep a sign in the women's bathroom that explains: An "angel shot with ice" means a bartender will call an Uber or Lyft, for example, and an "angel shot with lime" tells the bartender to call the police.
"The idea behind it was if you're on a Tinder date and it's not going well - you're uncomfortable, they're treating you poorly - then you can come up and say, 'Can I get an angel shot?'" said New Line Tavern bartender Scott Johnston.
No one has asked Johnston for an angel shot, he said, but he's had people request help and walked others outside. "This is something that you learn from experience, how to protect your customers and make sure that they are safe," he said.
At Lakeview's Lowcountry, owner Pan Hompluem said the bar has its own cocktail that can be ordered if someone needs help. "We want to create a safe environment," he said.
Even if bartenders are trained to respond to a coded cocktail, the solution becomes moot if customers are not informed. During recent visits to New Line Tavern and Lowcountry, signs explaining the code that employees said were up in a place only women would see them - for example, the women's bathroom - were not visible. Employees at both places have since said the signs are posted.
At New Line Tavern, owner Justin Witalka said that because the signs either get torn down or taken, employees end up printing a few new posters each week there and at his other bar in North Center, Brownstone Tavern. "Every time we put posters up, they seem to disappear," he said.
Signs would need to be visible at all times to reach as many patrons as possible.
"A lot of it is visibility," Mossell said. "If somebody is victimized, they feel empowered to act, to tell someone."
Mossell and her co-founder have trained about seven bars, including the EZ-Inn in Ukrainian Village and Empty Bottle. The group offers posters that tell patrons that bar employees are there to help.
On a recent evening, EZ-Inn bartender Nick Dennis said the training was helpful to talk through as a group. If he senses someone is making another customer uncomfortable, he said, he will print the tab, place the bill quietly and alert the person that he or she is no longer welcome.
"You're giving them the opportunity to walk away," he said. Mossell said victims often do not want whatever has happened to blow up into a bigger altercation.
Few bars publicize ways that customers can ask for help. In Wrigleyville, for example, bars along Clark Street have bathroom signs about drunken driving and upcoming events, but nothing that indicates available aid.
Mossell hopes her group can recruit volunteers to offer more training sessions. As public school teachers, she and her co-founder can't get to venues and bars in what is usually staffers' slowest time, during the day.
She said a woman recently said she was grateful to the group after visiting the Empty Bottle, where a drunk man harassed her and employees escorted him out the door. That response meant the woman could keep dancing.
"She said that she had a really good night," Mossell said.
- IHOP Launched a Pumpkin Pancake Stout With Keegan Ales
- The Absolute Best Thing to Eat in Every State
- These Cities Have the Most Millennials in the US
- 'Shot in the Dark' Is Dunkin' Donuts First-Ever Coffee in a Can
- 18 Indulgent Paleo Recipes