Words by Jasmine Khan / Images supplied by Bread Birmingham
“There is no point in everyone knowing that there’s drink spiking going on if they don’t know how to handle it.”
Titled ‘Customer and Drink Safety Awareness – information and policy’, the 16page handbook gives simple and effective ways for venue staff to combat the criminal use of disabling or ‘date rape’ drugs and needle spiking.
Bread Birmingham, who represent several venues across the city, decided to take action after calls from their entertainment clients to help challenge the frightening increase in reports – including an attack on a senior member of staff at popular Digbeth music venue, The Night Owl.
Director of Bread Birmingham, Mazzy Snape, told the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign:
“There’s big waitlist for (drink spiking awareness) training and even ordering spiking testing kits. I wanted to do something quickly. Me and Alex (Powell, Bread Birmingham Co-founder) thought, what can we provide to our clients that they can use right now.
“He (perpetrator) was very keen to get her a drink and he was with people that she would normally get drinks from. She had the drink and not long after that she became very ill. She had to go to hospital. The guy left whilst this was happening, I don’t know if he realised she worked there.”
Mazzy explained how the perpetrator was not known by the people he arrived at The Night Owl with, having joined the group after meeting them in a previous pub.
“I think it’s amazing that we thought, that doesn’t happen here (The Night Owl),” continued Mazzy, “people like that don’t come here. I think that it’s always happened at different places, but we’ve just not been alert to it before.”
Mazzy and the Bread Birmingham team are helping venues to be proactive in the fight against drink spiking, with the ‘Customer and Drink Safety Awareness’ guide encouraging staff to be vigilant against suspicious behaviour.
The drink saftety guide further recommends deterrents such as advertising initiatives which promote safe spaces, suggesting preventative methods such as drinks stoppers, and using drug testing kits. It also helps staff understand different ways substances can affect drinks, how to spot ‘spinking symptoms’, and how to look after someone who has been spiked.
“It taught us some lessons, like make sure you keep the drink,” continued Mazzy. “If someone leaves their drink unattended, take it and put it on the bar. You can always give it to them when they come back.
“I know that it’s not always necessary, but people have got to be a bit more observant. If someone notices anything strange, like someone messing with someone else’s drink, just take it off them and put it to one side for testing later.”
But it’s not just bar staff that Bread Birmingham are trying to enlist – the media agency has a longstanding client roster of prominent entertainment venues and understands the involvement of venue management is also important.
“Put some signs around the venue – Don’t Leave Your Drinks Unattended,” added Mazzy. “I know no one wants to say this has happened in my venue, or this could happen here, because it makes it feel like it’s not a safe place.
“But it’s happening everywhere… no matter how big or small the place is. Venues should be saying to people, if you see anything suspicious or if you feel unsafe, contact a member of our team.
“Whether it’s the DJ, door staff or bar staff, everyone’s there to help and they should know to escalate incidents to a supervisor or manager.”
For advice and support around any of the issues discussed in this article, or wider sexual violence, please contact NOT NORMAL NOT OK – details can be found at www.notnormalnotok.com/category/contact
For more advice on issues around alcohol, including drink spiking, visit www.drinkaware.co.uk/advice/staying-safe-while-drinking/ – alternatively you can call 0808 802 9999 or text 07537 410 027 for support.
For more from Bread Birmingham visit www.breadbirmingham.co.uk