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A Peek Into Miller Lite's Open and Proud Initiative

By Amira Ansari posted 15 days ago

  

USBG Foundation Weekly IGTV broadcast 6/9/2022 has been condensed to emphasize highlights and relay information relevant to this talk with @Lauren Poplawski of @MillerLite.

In recognition of Pride Month, @Naomi Ayala, spoke with our partners at Miller Lite to learn more about their bar initiative - Open and Proud.



Naomi: “Miller Lite was introduced in 1975, but as far back as the 1970’s when the brand sponsored, you know, Folsom St there in San Francisco. They've had a commitment to being an ally and they've sponsored a bunch of Pridefest events and Pride week in New York City.  Miller Brewing was also one of the first companies to offer same-sex domestic partnership benefits, and they did that in 2000, right?”

Lauren: “So, we have about a 50-year history of supporting and being an ally with the LGBTQ+ community. That's why it's so important that we continue this on today, and in the future we really aim to create an inclusive Miller-time for everybody and that includes members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Naomi: “I like that. So, you know, here we are like you said more than 40 years after Miller Lite gets first commitment be an ally and there's still more work to be done, and especially in this space. So, tell us what you're up to, and also tell me about Open and Proud: what that program is all about."

Lauren: “Yeah, so Open and Proud aims to make the bars and restaurants that serve Miller Lite more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community, and so we knew that before we could kind of make recommendations on what bars and restaurants need to change to do so. We had to really immerse ourselves in the community and listen to the wants needs and desires from proved bar inclusivity within the LGBTQ+ community. We knew as Miller Lite that we couldn't go in and make assumptions on what we think the needs were. We had to hear that directly from them in order to enact real change, so we spent all of 2021 immersing ourselves in the community listening to what they want, and then we used that to make our recommendation to restaurants about what they can change to make their bars more inclusive.”

Naomi: “Wow, and you know it - that's what makes Miller Lite such a great ally. They actually listened, and listening is really the biggest part of allyship, isn't it?”

Lauren: “Yes, exactly like I said. We knew we wanted to make real change, but until we knew the change that the LGBTQ+ community needed we really couldn't do anything. So that's why it was so important to do that work last year, and it's continuous in evolving and we're still this year as well.”

 

Naomi: “Yeah, so Lauren, tell me how this works. I understand that there's also a training manual available for people?”

Lauren: “Yep. So, basically the premise of the Open and Proud program is we launched this last year in 2021. We held four town hall events across the country in Chicago, Dallas, L.A., and New Jersey. And in those markets we invited members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community to come together and share their candid thoughts and experiences on what bars can do to make their spaces more inclusive. We then took those learnings and compiled the training guide, and now we're distributing that guide to the tens of thousands of bars that serve Miller Lite. So, really exciting stuff and we're hoping that these bar owners will receive our training materials... They'll read through them and then they'll implement some of the changes laid out in those guides within their bars. That way we're enacting real change based on what the LGBTQ+ community told us they were looking for in bars so that's the work that we're currently doing now.”

 

Naomi: “Awesome! So, tell me how can people get a copy of this manual for their bars?”

Lauren: “Great question! So, it's actually posted on our site. If you go to millerlite.com/open-proud, you can download the copy or read through it on there. It's about 15 pages but there's lots of great resources, a little overview on Open and Proud, and then we have three sections in the guide on inclusion, empowerment, and safety.”

Naomi: “Wow, and so once your staff goes through this self-directed training, what happens next?”

Lauren: ”Yes, so we are kind of in the early stages of putting together an Open and Proud certification program, so I'll tease that a little bit. But now that we're still ironing out the details of that and once that's fully formalized we'll be sure to share that information with the public. But, basically we have come up with three certification criteria for a bar or restaurant to be deemed Open and Proud certified. The first piece of criteria they would have to meet is actually receiving our training guide. So they would need to receive our training guide, share that with bar and staff members within their establishment. Secondly, they would need to hang up some sort of LGBTQ+ inclusive signage within their bar and keep that up year-round. It's important that that's not just going up during Pride Month because that's not meaningful if everyone's doing something during Pride Month. And then the third piece of criteria would be to implement two changes from the guidebook within their establishments. So, once they do that they're eligible to become Open and Proud certified, and then we would send a little Open and Proud window clearing that they could probably display in their front window and that would let LGBTQ+ folks and all folks know that that is a safe, inclusive welcoming establishment. So, like I said we're still ironing out the details of that, but that's definitely on the horizon soon. I will be sure to share details with the USBG.”

Naomi: “Awesome, so in this manual you know what kind of guidance is provided and what a staff member or management would get from participating in this program, and what are the positive impacts that can that can happen for the bar staff and for the guests?”

Lauren: “Yeah, so like I mentioned there's three sections. There is a safety section, empowerment section, and an inclusion section underneath each of these sections. There are some guidelines that you can implement, so some examples are making sure that the music you're playing is not derogatory or discriminatory in any way, making sure that your dress code for patrons and bar staff isn't unintentionally making someone dress a different way than you know the gender that they identify with. So, those are some smaller, I guess easier, lifts that a bar owner can make at their bar that will enact real change. There's also some tips on how to navigate potentially tricky situations. So, an example I always like to share is having bouncers ask patrons to confirm their address or their birthday rather than looking at a patron entering the bar and seeing if that person matches the picture on their ID, because for trans folks, specifically, you know they might not match the picture on their driver’s license and we don't wanna make those people feel uncomfortable or make it a bigger deal than it has to be. And so that's an example of a situation that this guidebook can help you navigate. So, there's definitely some good information in there for bar owners, staff, and even patrons to read through.”

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