“Harassing women on a night out has to stop”. That is the key message from bars and nightclubs in Lincoln as they seek to put a halt to drink spiking in the city, amid rumours of a venue boycott next week.
Recent reports of drink spiking have prompted a social media campaign for women to boycott the nightlife industry on Wednesday, October 27 to raise awareness and ask for change.
Girls Night In Lincoln is a local Instagram account that has joined in with nationwide calls for the boycott, sharing stories from anonymous people who believe they were spiked or sexually assaulted when on nights out in the city.
It comes as Lincolnshire Police confirmed it would be investigating reports of drink spiking in Lincoln city centre, after three women were reported to have been unwell after having a drink in a bar on Friday, October 8.
Police said on Thursday, October 21 that four cases of drink spiking in the Lincoln area had been reported so far this month, none of which involved injection via a needle.
The Lincolnite has reached out to major nightlife venues across the city to find out what measures are in place should people feel unsafe or at risk of being spiked. Here is what they had to say:
Home, Bierkeller, Craft & Carousel
Home nightclub has utilised a number of anti-drink spiking procedures for some time now, and wanted to reassure customers that there are plenty of things you can do if you suspect something has happened on a night out.
David Nejrup, operations manager at Home and sister businesses Carousel, Craft, Bierkeller, The Curiosity Shop and Void, has said systems have been reviewed following various reports of drink spiking.
He told The Lincolnite: “In our venues, our guests’ safety and wellbeing is paramount, it’s our number one priority. With recent reports on social media and on the news, locally and nationally of drinks being allegedly spiked we have pro-actively reviewed and enhanced our systems and procedures regarding guest safety and welfare.
“We have, for some time had the ability to test drinks instantly for any substances, if a guest is concerned or suspects a drink has been tampered with. We have various devices available on request at each of our bars that enable individuals to cover the tops of drinks.
“These include foil top stickers that cover the top of the whole drink and allow for a straw to be pierced through. We also have an equipped first aid and welfare room.”
As well as this, a fully qualified medic is on site at all times, increased signage and social media campaigns have been introduced to spread awareness of safety, and search procedures have been enhanced.
Mr Nejrup continued: “Our wider bar teams are also trained and well versed in removing any unattended drinks, looking out for any suspicious activity in our venue and in welfare campaigns such as Ask For Angela.”
Ask for Angela is a campaign that was started by Lincolnshire County Council in 2016, encouraging anyone who felt unsafe or vulnerable at a venue to use a codeword which would alert members of staff.
It began in Lincolnshire and was eventually rolled out across the country, most recently becoming endorsed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Metropolitan Police in light of the tragic death of Sarah Everard.
The Strait and Narrow
The Strait and Narrow in Lincoln was actually the first bar in the world to adopt the Ask for Angela scheme, and prides itself on keeping incidents of this kind to a minimum.
Owner Jez Nash has said it is a venue’s responsibility to keep customers safe and that “collectively we have to work our hardest to make sure this is the case.”
He said: “When people go out to a bar or a club they want to relax and have a good time, our responsibility goes beyond just serving them drinks. At The Strait and Narrow we always have a member of management on shift to make sure we know what’s going on in the venue, to make sure everyone’s behaviour is acceptable and that everyone is safe.”
Jez has also stated two solutions that should be brought in across the country to stop these incidents at source.
He continued: “Firstly in the short term, it needs to be stopped from happening and the people attempting to do this need to be caught and passed onto the authorities. We can do this by using the Drink Aware Kits to gather evidence, along with CCTV to make sure that the people responsible are caught and prosecuted and that the potential victims of their behavior are safe.
“Secondly in the long term, we need to educate people that certain types of behaviour isn’t acceptable. I doubt that the people who are attempting to spike drinks have just started doing this. I think it’s likely to be a way down the road from behaviour that started out as being minorly unpleasant and has become more extreme over time.
“That’s why we need to stop enabling the early signs of this. Harassing women on a night out for your own amusement has to stop. If you’re doing it – stop it, if you can’t stop seek help. If your friends are doing it tell them they shouldn’t. ”
Walkabout has also been utilising the Ask for Angela scheme, as well as drink protectors, and they have guest support workers who wear neon armbands to help customers with any concerns they may have.
A spokesperson for Walkabout Lincoln said: “The safety of our guests and our team, has always been, and remains, our number one priority and we continually review our safety and security procedures to ensure our customers and staff remain safe.
“Following the concern over alleged increases in spiking in clubs and bars, we have enhanced our measures to include offering promoting ‘Ask For Angela’, offering drink protectors including Spikeys and Scrunchies, and we also have guest support colleagues available to support any guests that are feeling vulnerable or unwell.
“These team members are easily identifiable, as they wear a neon armband. We have enhanced security checks on our door, and we ask guests remain vigilant and report any unusual or suspicious behaviour to one of our team immediately.”
Ian Hughes, general manager at Trebles, said: “The spiking situation is a concern for everyone involved. However, as a venue, we are working hard to tackle it.
“We are an ‘Ask for Angela’ bar and have been for several years. We also hold drink testing strips, again, something we’ve had for several years. If you are concerned about your drink, we can test it.
“The foil toppers is something we’re looking into as a venue as well as Spikeys (a cap put in bottles to prevent spiking) for bottles.
“If any customer feels unwell, uncomfortable or concerned, please make yourself known to staff, management or doorstaff and we’ll do our upmost to support you.”
University of Lincoln Students’ Union
The students’ union, which runs Towers, The Swan and The Engine Shed, issued a statement saying it was “committed to prioritising the safety of students” in its venues.
Multiple procedures have been put in place to combat the recent spate of drink spiking, such as offering Spikeys and Nightcaps for any drink ordered from the bar, and delivering a “comprehensive” staff training programme with a focus on venue safety, and searching “as many people as logistically possible”.
The students’ union will also work closely with Lincolnshire Police to aid the reporting of illegal activity. This included authorising drug swabs at the Quack! night during freshers’ week, with names of anyone who failed these passed directly to both the police and the university.
A spokesperson for the SU said: “It is vital that victims of suspected drink spiking within the Engine Shed or any SU venue, report this to security in the first instance, or any member of staff at the event so that we can most effectively deal with it. Prompt reporting is critical to us and the police, in order to effectively gather evidence.”
Ask for Angela is now a global scheme that was originally set up by Lincolnshire County Council. It encourages people to discreetly ask for help by going to the bar and saying ‘Ask for Angela’.
The Lincolnite has also contacted Fever & Boutique and Sugarcubes for statements, but did not receive a reply at the time of publication.