Prominent members of Edmonton’s political body and bar scene attended a presentation yesterday to kick off “Best Bar None,” a pilot program for drinking establishments launched to make nightlife in the capital safer.

The program is based on awards and credit given to watering holes for meeting and exceeding safety standards. The aim of the program is to help reduce the number of fights in Edmonton’s night scene, which has seen a rash of alcohol-related violence in the past few months.

The program takes several ideas from an initiative in the United Kingdom, where it has been shown to dramatically reduce violence.

Mayor Stephen Mandel said he hopes the initiative will make the streets safer.

“Cities are all about having fun, but we have to make sure it’s safe fun,” he said.

As for bargoers, they should be seeing changes take effect soon in the form of plaques at establishments that exceed program standards. Accreditation by the BBN program should make it easier to decide where they can safely enjoy their nights out.

Jesse James, who owns Union Hall in Edmonton, said that by rewarding bars that surpass standards, it will make others compete to be safer in order to gain more business.

“If I see my competitor is accredited and I’m not, then I’m going to want to be accredited too,” said James. “It shows that we’re complying and trying to do the right thing.”

The pilot program is set to finish in the late fall with an awards ceremony, after which it will be assessed and considered for implementation in other parts of the province.

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