The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

Bars need to do more to protect customers

STAR // Willow Ornellas

For most college students, turning 21 is a right of passage and this newfound freedom is often celebrated with going out to bars. However, these new environments also introduce risk; risk that’s supposed to be intercepted by security present at establishment doors. Unfortunately, security can’t catch everything. 

Of course, it’s not the fault of the bar when customers get drugged inside their establishments, but bars have a responsibility to do their best to protect beverage consumers. 

Spiked drink incidents can be dangerous and often lead to sexual assault, rape, or worse. A 2014 study from The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) found that more than 11 million women have experienced alcohol or drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) over the course of their lifetime. 

College students being drugged seems to be an increasing trend as well. A 2016 study published in Psychology of Violence released survey data taken from three universities of 6,064 students. The data revealed that 7.8% of the sample size, or 462 students, had been nonconsensually drugged. The survey also revealed that 1.4% of respondents, or 83 students, admitted to 172 different accounts of intentionally drugging another person. 

Some Sonoma State University students have also become victims of being drugged at local bars, as reported in a recent STAR news article. All of the bars students alleged they were drugged at, do have security present at the door, however students’ drinks are still getting spiked. 

The reported victim accounts were all consistent with consuming a date-rape drug with symptoms like gaps in memory, loss of bodily control, and excessive drunkenness after a drink or two.

After reports of multiple druggings were reported by the San Francisco Chronicle last spring, Duke’s bar in Healdsburg took the actions they deemed necessary to protect their customers. 

According to bartenders, Duke’s invested about $40-50k to upgrade their security system. There are cameras with every corner of the establishment in view. Law enforcement has access to all the footage from the cameras at any time and these cameras are enabled with facial recognition technology. On busy nights, there are six security guards on the premises and everyone who enters the building gets their ID checked. At the door, there’s also a security camera that captures footage of all the IDs checked so there’s a record of every person who enters the bar. 

Duke’s bartenders will pour out any unattended drinks to ensure someone doesn’t accidentally sip a spiked drink and most of Duke’s bar staff are female. Also, every employee has completed training courses from The SAFE Bar Network. 

Most area bars have not taken the same precaution as Duke’s so for anyone who wants peace of mind while ‘out’, there are some products available that can help with that. However, the reliability of these products is questionable. 

A popular product on the market is a drug detection card from Drinksafe. The test areas of these cards change color when exposed to date-rape drugs like Ketamine or GHP. The Amazon reviews for this product were revealing. One user reported the cards inconsistently tested positive, even with water. Another claimed the cards arrived with already altered colors. An additional reviewer claimed to test the cards with real Ketamine and the cards still didn’t react to the drug. 

TEST MY DRINK is an Amazon seller marketing nearly the same product as Drinksafe. TEST MY DRINK also sells beverage drug test strips intended to detect Ketamine and GHP. The reviews for this product are better, claiming it works, but one reviewer also had defective strips and strips react to water. 

The highest rated product to test if a drink was drugged, SipChip, is no longer available for purchase. The website doesn’t appear to provide a reason for the lack of stock but still claims the single-use, coin sized drug testing kit was 99.3% effective at detecting the most commonly used date-rape drugs in seconds. 

The NightCap Scrunchie appears to be the most reliable anti-drugging product on the market. Also, this product is actually in stock, unlike SipChip. The NightCap Scrunchie is an operable scrunchie that can double as a drink cover. The cover protects the drink, while allowing the drinker to still sip with a straw. 

At the end of the day, no one deserves waking up with a stack of unfamiliar Ubers on their phone, six to eight hours of lost memory, or in a hospital because they became a victim of a crime worse than a spiked drink. In some cases, being drugged can be a matter of life or death and bars need to be doing as much as they can to protect their customers from this fate. 

Donate to Sonoma State Star

Your donation will support the student journalists of Sonoma State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Sonoma State Star