Sherbrooke resident starts petition to improve bar security

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ariane Mailhot, daughter of Joël Mailhot, the man who lost his life on Aug. 17 after he was fatally assaulted at the Taverne Urbaine, recently launched a petition to improve safety standards in bars across the province.
Mailhot said her father would have had a better chance at survival if there had been just one more employee on the scene that evening. In her online petition, she states that these events continue to happen without any significant changes.
Her mission, according to the website, is to force bar owners into hiring one or more doormen in order to create a safe environment for patrons and employees. It was my father, she writes, but it could just easily be someone’s son, daughter, cousin, or friend.
“When something happens in the bar there isn’t always someone there to react,” said Mailhot. “We’d like to change the law if possible, but we’re not there yet.”
The 17-year-old cegep student is also attempting to gain support from local MNA Christine Labrie. She has also been in contact with the owners of Taverne Urbaine. She told The Record that talks were productive.
The bar installed panic buttons as an added safety measure. However, while Mailhot appreciates the gesture, she believes this is only a small bandaid on a larger issue. She is willing to listen to other ideas, but she wants to see more security guards.
“I’m open to suggestions, but our main goal is to add another security guard,” said Mailhot. “Some bars have added panic buttons to contact the police, but that won’t prevent a fight.”
Jean-Jacques Beauchamp, CEO of the Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec, said that although her family suffered a tragic event, the answer isn’t hiring more security. This is impractical, he explained, especially given the pandemic situation.
“It’s impossible to hire someone at $200 an hour and if you need someone from open to close it’s 18 hours at $200, so that’s $3,600 a day, which is $21,000 a week and a million dollars a year,” Beauchamp said.
Joël Mailhot died from his injuries a few days after the altercation. The 51-year-old was one of three people in the bar. The others were the server and the 25-year-old attacker, Kevin Sanders, now facing a second degree murder charge.
While he sympathizes with her situation, Beauchamp, who owns a bar in Montreal, added that these events don’t happen in every bar across Quebec. It’s possible Taverne Urbaine has a bad track record, he continued, this doesn’t mean every bar should be penalized for their mistakes.
According to Beauchamp, he installed panic buttons years ago at his establishment. It helps, he said, but when you’re in a large city like Sherbrooke, calling 9-1-1 is just as effective. The police will be there in no time at all, he concluded.
The biggest issue he has with making security guards mandatory is cost. He also believes bars aren’t supposed to double as a security company. Bar owners are responsible for the safety of their patrons and employees, if they can’t then they can lose their license.
“She has to know that there are some sanctions that exist already,” said Beauchamp. “If you cannot run your bar safely, then the Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux will revoke your permit, it won’t take long.”
People can sign the petition at It has gained close to 600 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

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