The surge in spiking at UK nightclubs has been a cause for concern for university students. A recent report by The Tab showed that 11% of university students believed their drinks had been spiked. The Alcohol Education Trust found that more than one in 10 young adults had been victims of spiking.
Spiked drinks — and those through more sinister methods such as direct needle injections — have reached alarming levels in the UK, particularly over the past year.
Students have reported feeling terrified of going out at night due to this. “I have not seen a single woman carrying around a drink, and I think people are getting way less drunk than they would, just because people are terrified,” a student at Durham University told The Morning Advertiser.
Last year, women across the country took part in a mass boycott of UK nightclubs, many of whom participated due to their own personal experiences and safety concerns.
Given this, it’s natural that both local and international students are demanding more action to be taken to ensure their safety in bars and clubs across the country. The government is already moving to tackle this issue, recently announcing the formation of a new working group to address needle and drink spiking in universities.
However, if change is to happen, UK nightclubs and bars must put their own precautions in place. Some are already introducing new measures that can improve students’ — and the wider clubbing community’s — safety, both from risks of spiked drinks and otherwise.
Here’s a round-up of the current safety measures in place at UK nightclubs and bars, and how you can use this for a stress-free night out:
The “Ask For Angela” Campaign
If you feel unsafe, vulnerable, or threatened in a bar or club, you can approach any staff and ask for or mention Angela. This code word is a signal to staff that you require assistance or help, whether it be in the form of calling you a taxi, ensuring that you are not left alone, or calling security or the police.
The campaign, which was introduced to better help people who feel unsafe in UK nightclubs and bars, is currently supported by the Metropolitan Police in a move to increase public safety. Not all bars and clubs have adopted the scheme, but those that do will usually have “Ask For Angela” posters up in women’s bathrooms.
Liverpool doorman Adam Potter says he has been asked the question several times, most of them from women.
“They basically say, ‘can you keep an eye on this guy? He’s making me feel uncomfortable’,” Potter told The Mirror. “I probably get that at least once a night, possibly three or four times a night — that’s just girls who come up to me. They might say ‘he’s tapped me on the bottom’, in which case he gets thrown out. Any touching inappropriately they get thrown out immediately.”
The scheme has been praised for its simplicity and the fact that it doesn’t require significant training across staff members aside from understanding how to recognise customers in vulnerable situations.
Searches on entry
It isn’t uncommon these days to find entrances of UK nightclubs and bars blocked by metal detectors or other security screens. A few clubs, including PRYZM and Ministry of Sound, already have this in place.
Most are also enforcing stricter ID checks, requiring authentic government-issued documents before partygoers are allowed entry.
Some UK nightclubs are taking further precautions on this front. For example, The Bullingdon in Oxford conducts body pat-downs of every male coming into the venue, the only club to do so. The club has stated that while some substances will still be allowed through, every sharp object including needles and knives will be confiscated.
Players bar in Birmingham has introduced similar measures, reporting to The Birmingham Tab that it has “stepped up [its] body searching on entry”. This includes bag searching for females, and denying the entry of men with bags unless it’s for a proven health reason.
Cup covers to prevent spiked drinks
As spiked drinks become a greater threat to students, bars and clubs have begun introducing covers for glasses and cups. The University of Sheffield’s Student Union has introduced drink covers, known as “Spikeys”, at all its bars. Other clubs and bars provide cling film or bottle toppers to cover drinks with.
The Leadmill at Sheffield has taken to employing more staff to collect unattended drinks and empty glasses.
Royal Holloway Students’ Union also offers a range of anti-spiking products, including Spikeys, StopTopps and NightCap scrunchies.
If you are worried about the threat of spiking, be sure to ask for a drink cover from a bartender or member of staff at your venue.
Using spiked drink test strips
Some clubs have taken to randomly testing drinks that are left unattended, or otherwise providing such strips to concerned customers. Home nightclub in Lincoln employs this strategy to keep clubbers safe:
“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,” operations manager David Nejrup told The Lincolnite last year.
Such test strips are designed to detect minimal standard doses of frequently used spiking substances or “date rape” drugs, including ketamine and GHB.
To use these, the user simply needs to drop a small amount of liquid on the testing patch using a straw, their finger, a stirrer, or other methods. The test strip will either turn red or blue, depending on the presence of drugs.
Having first-aid responders on-site
Some clubs and bars across the UK have fully-qualified first-aid responders or medics on site throughout the night. Others are providing their employees with first-aid training to ensure they are better equipped to help vulnerable or hurt customers.
Many have also introduced signage around their premises explaining what to do if customers feel unsafe or suspect that their drink has been spiked.
West Street Live, a dance club in Sheffield, has a number of precautions in place to prevent spiking or assist those who have been affected by spiked drinks. This includes regular patrols by male and female staff members around the premises.
The Mill in Birmingham have employed more senior female staff and security in the building, and The Bullingdon in Oxford are establishing patrols of toilets and premises every 30 minutes.
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