The announcement of “last call” signals more than the end of a night on the town at a club or bar. For some it’s a reminder to go home and go to bed, but for others it’s quite the opposite, especially if lots of drinking has been going down. But whether you’re a party animal or a once in a while night-lifer, one thing is sadly true: if you’re a woman and you’re out late enough to hear those words, it can often be a vulnerable, even dangerous time.
Celeste Durve and Kelsi Kitchener of the L.A. hospitality agency VIPER are seeking to redefine the phrase with their new nightlife safety initiative and hashtag. With #LastCall, the entrepreneurs hope to inspire conversation around sexual harassment, assault and the all too frequent problem of women getting drugged inside bars and clubs.
With pretty much all nightlife on pause due to the pandemic, it might seem curious to some that the duo decided to launch the initiative at this time, but they see it as a perfect moment to do so. “We took time and spoke with certain nightlife execs and decided right now was the time so they could implement #LastCall in their post-COVID re-opening training,” says Durve. “We felt that during this time people are spending a little more time paying attention to what really matters and many people are spending more time on social justice due to ample time especially in front of screens, we hope this will be similar. ”
Drug-facilitated assault within the L.A. nightlife industry was getting more attention than ever just before the pandemic hit in fact, with the death of model Kimberly Fattorini (who died from an overdose of GHB after leaving the Warwick nightclub in Weho back in 2017) gaining renewed interest on social media after screenshots of a civil lawsuit filed by her parents against the prime suspects spread online earlier this year. “We heard about Kim’s death the second week into quarantine and spent a lot of time going through and deciding when was the right time to come out with something that could really help reshape the nightlife industry when things opened back up,” adds Kitchener.
Coupled with the tragic death of model and sex therapist Amy Harwick by a former boyfriend, Fattorini’s story resonated with women in L.A. who’d been threatened, stalked, groped, manipulated or worse, assaulted or drugged within a nightlife environment. The women of VIPER were part of the conversation, calling for action from the promoters and venues they worked with to make changes, especially in terms of how women are treated at the end of the night. They also provided a safe place for females in the nightlife community to share via a group chat they ran.
“After hearing that so many of them feared losing their jobs or being banned from clubs, we decided that it was up to us to help be a voice for the many women who had experienced sexual assault, especially in the nightlife industry given our platform,” says Kitchener. ” We had countless girls tell us their own experiences with being drugged and waking up with guys on top of them or waking the next morning and not remembering what happened but knowing they didn’t consent to sex. Celeste also had a bad experience being drugged where she ended up in the ER so this was very close to home. We needed to create something to raise awareness and put social pressure on an issue affecting an average of 80% of the girls we know. ”
The #LastCall initiatives are not entirely new (read our 2018 piece, Roaring & Soaring, about women in nightlife and music, which details similar actions via local DJs and musicians including one geared towards festivals called “soteria.” that designates safe space and service at music events). Still, #LastCall promises to put focus on the velvet roped/bottle service side of nightlife, where men with money and privilege often think they can do what they want and get away with it; even more so than the rock world, which has seen an avalanche of reckoning and outing of predatory behavior the past couple months.
Upscale nightlife participants include the aforementioned Warwick, TAO, Waterfront, Winston House and heavy-hitter nightlife groups including sbe (Doheny Room, S Bar, Hyde, Nightingale, Skybar) and The h. wood Group (Blind Dragon, Bootsy Bellows, Delilah, Harriet’s, Poppy). The Viper ladies also say they got the Raya dating app and alcohol brands BEV and Ving involved.
“We hope to discourage predators and bring attention to victims that want to be heard,” says Kitchener. “Nightlife is male-dominated and because VIPER was the first all-female team in the Hollywood scene, we hoped we could help disrupt the boys club where things like this had previously gone ignored. We want to continue to work to make changes on a national level down the road by revisiting what laws are in place related to the drug-facilitated assault. ”
See below, for #LastCall’s specific actions, which will hopefully be implemented when it is safe for nightclubs, bars and other after dark destinations to resume.
1. Nightlife Neighborhood Watch: Encouraging patrons to pay attention to their surroundings and take notice of unsafe situations when the lights come on at the end of the night. Additionally, recommending everyone leave in groups with people they trust.
2. Reference Checks + Sexual Harassment training: Calling on venues to execute soft background checks and investigate references when hiring promoters, employees, and partners. As well as providing and enforcing sexual harassment training for all staff and promoters.
3. Valet + Security: Implementing safety protocols during exit period by rotating heavier security presence to exit. If a guest cannot properly stand up, valet and security should be required to bring it to the attention of the head guard or manager; and evaluate the situation to find the safest possible solution.
4. Female Leadership: Encouraging venues to hire female leads or managers who employees and patrons can file complaints with. As well as keeping track of write-ups against promoters, patrons, and employees with credible reports against them.
5. Listening to Feedback: Removing said patrons, promoters, and/or employees after three write-ups.
6. Counteracting Drugs: Recommending venues to train at least one member of management on how to properly help a drugged victim on site.
7. Brand Integration: Aligning with brands to support this movement is crucial. The more companies who speak out against this, the more pressure we put on the system to reform.
8. Last Call Board of Advisors: Composed of top LA nightlife executives and club owners the Board of Advisors will provide feedback, filter promoters and establish official protocols for nightlife safety. Increasing the conversation and accountability among nightlife’s key players, the goal is to ensure that identified predators are held liable across all venues. Additionally, this committee will sift through reports and references to verify accuser credibility.
Learn more about Viper’s VIP event relations and their new initiative here.