Bar Sue owner Ian Carey first became concerned about an uptick in drugged drinks on Capitol Hill when he himself was drugged a few months ago at a neighborhood bar. When a Bar Sue patron reported being drugged last month, Carey decided to start offering free “date rape drug detector” tests.
“For now I am just providing free tests and posting signs that they are available to my patrons, in hopes it will potentially deter predators in my bar,” he said.
Now other bars are following suit. Chop Suey owner Brianna Rettig told CHS she has already put the order in for the strips that test for GHB, a common date rape drug. “They’re very easy and pretty brilliant. You just do a straw test on the tab and it’ll tell you whether or not there’s GHB inside the drink,” Rettig said.
Rettig said she has held multiple meetings with Chop Suey’s security and bar staff about looking out for suspicious behavior and signs of over intoxication. Nightlife owner Steven Severin said he has not heard reports of drugged drinks at Neumos, Moe Bar, or Barboza, but hopes increased attention on the issue will scare off any would-be predators.
“I like to think that the type of folks that are going to do something so heinous will stay away from our businesses partially of the community and family we’ve created here,” Severin said. “We encourage folks that if they’re going to leave their drink to let a bartender know and we’ll either hold it on the inside of the bar or people will put a coaster over the drink.”
The Stranger recently reported that at least 10 people have reported being drugged at Capitol Hill bars this summer. Seattle Police also sent out a warning last week to bar and club owners to keep an eye out for patrons who may have been given date rape drugs.
While the GHB test strips offer a temporary solution, Carey is hoping that a Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce meeting with other bar owners and staff Tuesday evening will help generate some more ideas on what can be done to keep people safe. UPDATE: The efficacy of GHB testing strips can be limited by several factors, including the inability to detect other potential date rape drugs. A 2007 study did find that three brands of commercially available GHB tests were effective at detecting the drug and researchers recommended their use by law enforcement officials.
“I want a very clear, tangible set of responses to this situation. I want to see folks step up,” said chamber executive director Sierra Hansen. “How do we keep an eye on patrons, and if somebody has been drugged, how do we keep them safe?”
Last week, SPD said it would be working with nightlife owners to clamp down on the problem.
SPD continues to work with our nightlife partners to train staff to recognize and respond to any reported incidents, raise awareness in the community, and ensure the safety of nightlife patrons.
For your safety, never leave a drink unattended or accept a drink from someone you don’t know and report any suspicious activity to police and nightlife staff.
“What we struggle with is people don’t report,” Hansen said. “People don’t feel comfortable reporting, especially if there was a sexual assault involved.”