Recap: Best Bar None 2014

Last week I attended the fifth annual awards ceremony for Best Bar None. This year, 53 local bars, clubs, pubs, and lounges received accreditation, which means they are committed to ensuring their locations are held to the highest levels of safety and quality. While receiving accreditation is an achievement itself, the best of the best in six different categories were also honored with an award.

Best Bar None 2014

The winners for 2014 were (pdf news release here):

You can find the full list of accredited venues here.

Most of the accredited businesses had representatives present at the ceremony, and they all seemed to be having a great time. There was definitely some friendly rivalries going on, especially for the Club category, which The Ranch has won three times in a row now. Another frequent winner in previous years was Hudson’s Canadian Tap House.

Best Bar None 2014
Accredited & awarded businesses in the Club category

I’ve always heard about Best Bar None, but didn’t know much about it until I attended the awards ceremony this year. Here’s the description from their website:

“There’s good, there’s great, and there’s best. Best Bar None is a voluntary program for nightlife venues, designed to keep staff and patrons safe while recognizing excellence in the industry. Working with other establishments, government bodies, and law enforcement, a Best Bar None accredited establishment has taken steps to make sure their business is held to the highest levels of safety and quality. Through rigorous assessment, accreditation and awards, Best Bar None helps make sure your favourite nightlife venues have you covered.”

Becoming accredited means submitting written policies and procedures that cover all mandatory policies, completing mandatory operational forms and checklists, passing an in-person assessment, and completing a questionnaire. Businesses must have a wide range of policies, such as a glass collection policy and a written procedure for premises evacuation in the event of an emergency. For those venues that go above an beyond, there are a series of bonus policies they can submit, such as having a policy to provide surveillance camera images and data to police immediately upon request. During the physical assessment, venues must meet 19 different criteria, with an additional 22 criteria available for bonus points. You can see the complete criteria checklist online here in PDF.

Best Bar None 2014

The program is a partnership between the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), the City of Edmonton, and the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). Originally created in the U.K., the Alberta Safer Bars Council brought the program to Edmonton for a pilot in 2010. Of the 63 establishments that applied for accreditation that year, 38 were successful. Since being piloted here in Edmonton, the Best Bar None program has since been adopted in Calgary, Grande Prairie, Toronto, and Ottawa, with many other municipalities looking to start their own programs.

At the City of Edmonton, the Best Bar None program is administered by Responsible Hospitality Edmonton. They are stewards of Edmonton’s late-night economy, affectionately known as “the other 9 to 5”. It’s bigger than you might think too, with more than 5,800 full-time equivalent jobs, 235 licensed establishments open after midnight, and an estimated total impact on economic output of $686 million. In addition to their work on Best Bar None, Responsible Hospitality also runs the Public Safety Compliance Team and Street as a Venue programs.

You might think the Best Bar None program is for those in the industry only and not of interest to patrons, but that’s not true. Surveys show that 90% of patrons believe bar managers can do things to make their venues safer and 80% rate safety as being important when considering which locations to attend. I have certainly noticed the sticker on windows more frequently when I walk past establishments now, and it’s helpful to know that those locations have met a minimum standard.

AGLC has produced some new commercials that make this point as well, with their slogan “we’ve got you covered”:

Thanks to AGLC for inviting me to the event, and congratulations to all of the accredited and awarded businesses! You can see the rest of my photos here.

You can follow Best Bar None on Twitter for updates.

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