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How should dance venues best protect the drinks of attendees?

by Maxwell Peterson1 min read20th Sep 202122 comments

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In a social circle I’m in, there’s a problem now and then with people being drugged without their knowledge, via other patrons slipping drugs like roofies or GHB into their drinks. A DJ friend of mine is looking for ways to protect attendees to her shows. Besides warning patrons to be aware, are there other weird methods we might consider? One suggestion was test strips or special reactive straws, but we’ve heard there are many false positives - in particular, it sounds like acidity will set the straws off, so any drink with juice could easily trigger a false positive. Looking for other weird out-of-the box ideas to consider!

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9 Answers

Lids and straws. Presumably this would make slipping a drug in way more obvious.

Also consider taping the lids on as a matter of course.

4Elizabeth3moYeah, I don't think lids do much without a tamper-evident seal.
2gilch3moI suppose the rapist could still palm an eyedropper and aim it into the straw, but this has got to be a lot more difficult than dropping a pinch of powder over an open cup. Doable, but difficult. Drops on the lid would be suspicious if he misses. Also, thin straws would make this even more difficult.
3ChristianKl3moYou likely want straws that are bend.
2samshap3moDepends on the environment. My assumption is that the venue is sufficiently crowded that the tamperer would never be alone with the drink, and the main protection is their risk of being spotted. A tamper proof solution would likely be far more costly to implement.
1Maxwell Peterson3moGood note - I hadn’t thought of that.

Totally! I think that's the leader right now - someone mentioned a felt thing that fits in a pocket crumpled up but can be spread decently over a drink opening, so I ordered a few of those. But really I guess a lid is a normal thing that other places already provide, so maybe it's not that complicated!

Plausibly Rohypnol and GHB are on the list of substances bees and wasps can be trained to detect. Unlike drug-sniffing dogs, bees and wasps can only be trained on a single scent and are less influenced by their handlers, so it's less of a privacy invasion and you can worry less about accidentally detecting drugs you don't mind. My impression is the bees need to be in a cylinder that's held fairly close to the source of drugs, but I really really want your friend to release trained roofie hunting bees into clubs where they swarm rapists, Jupiter Ascending style.

As far as I know, the only real solution to this and other such problems is hiring better bouncers - with good situational awareness, good judgment of people, good ability to become very present/intimidating or very invisible/unobtrusive at will. Have some at the door, turning away people who give the wrong vibe, and some inside the venue, making the rounds in a friendly way.

Also, please don't listen to the more outlandish suggestions here (ban drinks, ban drinks on the dancefloor, have gatekeepers between parts of the venue, tape lids on drinks, post scary signs). These will actively turn off good people. The venue should feel like a place of free-rolling comfort and joy.

Whatever you do in an event will turn off some people. There's probably a market for people who want to go to clubs but want to avoid "rape culture". 

For a dance venue to be successful it has to mainly appeal to women. If women like it and come, the men will come because the women are there.

I did ask for weird ideas! But yeah point taken.

Have video surveillance, from cameras in positions that people can't readily determine, and a known, credible commitment to review footage when incidents are reported.

Test strips/straws will have both false positives and false negatives, both of which mean they don't work for routine use--false positives would lead to panic and false accusations, false negatives mean someone could take one home and test different drugs until they find one that it can't detect. OTOH it might make sense to stash a few behind the counter and take them out when there's concrete suspicion.

If any drink with juice does trigger the reactive straws the bartenders can learn about which drinks do that and then only serve those drinks without any juice/other material that triggers false positives with the special straws. 

Hopefully, you can find special straws that look the same as the normal straws you give out so that an attacker wouldn't know whether the drink of a target has a normal or a special straw in it.

Then write on the drink menu that some false positives are expected and patrons who have their straw change color should simply come with the drink to the bar to get it exchanged for a new drink as safety precaution.

Whenever that happens you can do more expensive testing and if it triggers correctly investigate the video tapes.

Ban drinks on the floor and have gatekeepers guarding the exits to the bar. Train them to screen everyone leaving for symptoms of the date-rape drugs. (Are they fast-acting enough that this could be noticeable before they exit?) Announce and post signs so patrons expect this. Maybe train the bartenders too. Also don't give anyone more drinks if they're getting drunk. Maybe also screen everyone exiting the venue, if possible.

Have you considered banning the drinks altogether?

Ban drinks on the floor, and only serve them in sex-segregated areas. Have bouncers to enforce this. (Bouncers and bartenders could still be male, but in uniform.) A rapist would have to have a female accomplice, successfully pose as a female (difficult for most men), steal a uniform, or actually be a female (this has got to be rare), and then still somehow get their mark out of the female area against her will without the bouncers noticing. This wouldn't stop the boys from getting raped, but I assume this is less of a problem?

Your social circle is very different from any I've ever been in. Sorry to hear that.

I assume these drugs take effect gradually, and that the effects are dramatic enough that the victim is (eventually) aware of them.

If so, mightn't it be better to warn everyone about the problem (be on the lookout for drug effects!), and advise victims to inform others about the scumbags doing this? (Under the assumption that most of them time when people are drugged it'll be fairly obvious who did it.)

I'd think it would be better to drive the scumbags out of your community than to just find a way to prevent one attack vector. (Surely those who'd stoop to this will find other equally objectionable ways to achieve their ends.)

Thanks. Wish we could! These are shows with hundreds or sometimes even thousands of attendees, and tickets are sold online to the public, so it’s not clear whether the attackers are even repeat attendees or actually in the relatively smaller group of people we know. General warnings to watch out for this kind of thing are definitely going out :)

1 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 1:24 AM

What happens if someone is suspected of drugging a drink? Making it costly to do so or be in a position to do so even if you don't use it could increase safety.