Brussels bars linked to alleged sexual assault vouch to improve women's safety

Brussels bars linked to alleged sexual assault vouch to improve women's safety
Women during the second rally against sexual violence in Ixelles. Credit: Belga

The management of the two bars in Ixelles, which made headlines in recent days after several young women reported that they had been drugged then sexually abused by staff, has vouched that it would improve the safety of women.

Among the measures that will be taken at El Café and Waff, located near Cimitière d’Ixelles - a popular spot for students going out - management said it made various proposals to the municipality's Mayor Christos Doulkeridis, who had previously said that he’d like to close the two bars.

"We believe that if the hatred that our establishments are subjected to regarding violence against women can help to raise awareness of this unacceptable behaviour, it will be a disaster for the better," the bars’ management said in a statement on Facebook, adding that it had immediately dismissed the waiter accused in the complaints.

It stressed that the testimonies shared in previous weeks have "highlighted the fact that this is a global phenomenon in the nightclub sector and that it is indispensable for action to be taken as soon as possible."

Both bars will now or already have introduced glass protectors, install cameras in the preparation area in the bar, train teams on how to manage sexual harassment situations, consult with other nightclubs, victims and other authorities on how to provide assistance, as well as testing for drugs in both establishments.

It also asked the authorities to make clear information available in the establishments – and even argued this should be shared across all bars – on rules regarding vigilance, information to be given to customers to prevent harassment, and how to deal with complaints or concerns.

'Not complicit in violence'

In the statement, the management added that, following the latest demonstrations that took place on Thursday, it would like to "remind everyone of our total support for the victims," and said that it was in contact with the various organisations involved in the demonstrations to agree on constructive measures to be put into place.

"We have never been and will never be complicit in acts of violence against women," it added.

The management faced particular criticism as it was alleged that the bartender in question was moved from El Café, where the first allegations against him took place and had just been transferred to El Café, another bar in the same area, rather than being suspended.

However, the bar management now said "this was in no way linked to a desire to hide facts of which we would have been aware, but rather to the fact that the employee worked for both establishments."

It added that it was not informed by the police of an ongoing investigation into the bartender, and that "complaints against an employee of an establishment are not accessible until the end of the investigation."

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