Bouncers will now be required to complete security training to work at late-night bars in Nova Scotia under new rules announced by the province Friday.
Bar security staff will also need to provide a criminal record check on request and complete a responsible beverage service training program. This applies to staff at the bars in the province with cabaret licences that allow them to stay open until 3:30 a.m.
Those establishments are:
The Dome, Halifax.
Level 8 Night Club & Lounge, Halifax.
HFX Sports Bar & Grill/The Alehouse, Halifax.
The Toothy Moose, Halifax.
The Capri Cabaret, Sydney.
If cabarets are found to be in violation of these new licensing requirements, their liquor licence could be suspended by the province.
Bar security staff have until July 1 to take the approved online security training course — the Alberta ProTect Security Training Program. Nova Scotia plans to develop its own training program, which will eventually replace the Alberta program.
At least one manager or supervisor who has completed both training programs and provided a criminal record check will also need to be on-site during opening hours.
In February, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Justice Minister Brad Johns said in a statement to CBC News that Johns asked for a review of the regulations around bar security staff after the death of Ryan Sawyer late last year.
Halifax Regional Police found the 31-year-old unresponsive outside of the Halifax Alehouse in the early hours of Dec. 24.
Sawyer's death was ruled a homicide days later but police have not yet laid any charges and have said the investigation is ongoing.
A witness who was outside the Halifax Alehouse at the time told CBC News he saw an altercation in the moments before police arrived. The witness shot a short video at the scene and told CBC News he saw a bouncer put Sawyer into a choke hold.
So far, neither police nor the owners of the Halifax Alehouse have commented on whether Alehouse staff were involved in the altercation with Sawyer.
In a separate incident, two men are facing assault charges related to an October incident involving a bar patron who says he was attacked by Alehouse bouncers.
The Alehouse is also the subject of a lawsuit by another patron who says he was assaulted by bouncers in August 2022, according to court documents.
'Significant legislative gap'
Service Nova Scotia Minister Colton LeBlanc oversees the Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division that is responsible for enforcing the liquor licensing regulations.
"We've taken the acts of violence that we've seen very seriously," LeBlanc said Friday.
"We want to provide an environment that's safe for both patrons and staff but implementing solutions that can certainly improve these types of situations to prevent them in the future."
In February, Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law in Halifax told CBC News there was "a significant legislative gap" when it comes to the rules around in-house security at bars in the province.
To prevent unnecessarily violent behaviour between bouncers and patrons, MacKay said there needs to be effective regulation to make training mandatory for staff and to create significant penalties for violations.
"I think that's part of the advantage of regulating and having education, is to have everyone concerned clearer about where the limits are," MacKay told CBC News at the time.
A security expert said the new measures are a good first step, but they don't go far enough.
Roger Miller is president of Northeastern Protection Service, which specializes in policing and security. He said all bar staff should receive specialized training, not just bouncers. And he said the rules should be extended beyond the five cabarets to cover all bars.
"If you look at security and police officers around the world, the whole goal is to try to remove that physical confrontation," Miller said Friday.
"Sometimes there's just no way to avoid it, but de-escalating, not over-serving patrons, there's a whole host of things that happen before you get into the actual hands-on ejecting of people from an establishment."
MORE TOP STORIES