City of Atlanta trains nightlife workers on emergencies, public safety

Officials aim to enlist community-based ‘violence interrupters’ following deadly mass shooting at Buckhead club
Madison Laughridge, operations manager at Masquerade, listens during CPR lessons at a safety training seminar for nightlife workers in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.   (Ben Gray /

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Madison Laughridge, operations manager at Masquerade, listens during CPR lessons at a safety training seminar for nightlife workers in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.   (Ben Gray /

A fatal club shooting at a popular hotspot in Buckhead last month sent shockwaves through the city — particularly in the nightlife community for bartenders and servers who make a living working late night hours.

Around 2:30 a.m. on May 12, gunfire erupted inside Elleven45 club on Northwest Peachtree Road. Six people were shot and two were killed.

A month later, on Tuesday, at Bar Diver in West Midtown, dozens of nightlife workers gathered for a safety training day held by the city of Atlanta where they learned violence de-escalation techniques, CPR and how to administer Naloxone during a drug overdose.

The training was held by the city’s Office of Film, Entertainment and Nightlife, a division created by Mayor Andre Dickens when he first took office as a way to support the industries that play a massive role in propping up the city’s economy.

Longtime members of the industry say that once patrons pass security at night spots, they’re the last line of defense in emergency situations, making it crucial to be constantly aware of your surroundings.

“I prep my staff by saying, ‘If you see something, say something,’” said Leo de Rivera, beverage director at Bar Diver.

“Just be aware, because no matter how safe everything looks and can be, the best safety you can possibly have is to look around and be prepared,” he said.

The city’s training is specifically designed for bartenders, security members, venue owners and staff in an effort to better prepare Atlanta’s nightlife industry in case of an emergency like the one at the Elleven45 lounge.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens told attendees that a strong partnership between city officials, law enforcement and the industry is paramount in making the city’s nightlife both profitable and safe.

“These training days have been very instrumental in making sure that we have good dialogue,” he said. “But also to give us feedback on how we can be better as a city in advocating and supporting nightlife.”

But according to the mayor, the Office of Film, Entertainment and Nightlife also plays a key role in combating the city’s crime numbers. Dickens credits part of the city’s 21% dip in homicides last year to a focus on increasing safety at Atlanta’s entertainment venues.

Kristin Edwards, who was recently appointed as the city’s manager of nightlife and culture, said the administration is ramping up outreach efforts to businesses across the city to implement small changes that may make a big difference.

Like making sure police officers are nearby even hours after alcohol has stopped being served or pushing back street sweeping crews’ start times to avoid traffic jams. Edwards said safety can be as simple as Atlantans making sure their phones are fully charged before going out on the town.

“It’s up to everyone — it’s up to the staff members, the owners and managers — to make sure that they are on top of security, that they are taking every precaution that they can take, as well as the patrons,” she said.

Kristin Edwards, manager of nightlife and culture for the city of Atlanta, talks during a safety training seminar for nightlife workers on June 11. Staff photo by Ben Gray /

Credit: Ben Gray

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Credit: Ben Gray

‘Boots on the ground’

Bartenders like Kenny Smith at Bar Diver are constantly on the lookout for patrons that may have had too much alcohol or didn’t eat beforehand.

He said fatal situations like the one that took place last month in Buckhead highlight the importance of having conversations around what safety measures are in place and what staff should do if something goes wrong.

“When we have events like this, it’s important to get our community together and ensure that we’re enforcing the right things, like security pat downs,” he said. “Because if they get past security, then it’s a problem.”

The city’s Office of Violence Reduction wants to go even further to stop problematic situations or individuals before they reach a business’s door.

The division plans on rolling out a program where contracted individuals called “violence interrupters” roam popular hotspots and areas around nightlife venues to try to prevent violence before police are called. Other cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York have similar community-based programs to address gun violence.

Reginald T. Rainge, youth violence reduction manager for the city, said they hope to have the initiative up and running within the next few months.

“That is the plan we have for the city: put boots on the ground and use preventative measures to help mitigate some of the problems we see,” he said. “So there are more eyes in a lot of different places.”