British Columbia

Okanagan bar offers code word to help women get out of uncomfortable spots

An Okanagan bar is offering a special code drink for women to order on dates gone wrong if they need an escort to their car, a cab or police.

If woman orders an 'angel shot,' staff will escort her out, call a cab or police

The 'angel shot' program allows women to discreetly alert bar staff that they feel unsafe and need help. (Shutterstock / Keep Smiling Photography)

A bar in the South Okanagan is hoping to protect female customers by introducing an "angel shot," a code word women can use if they feel unsafe.

The Mule on Martin, a nightclub in Penticton, B.C., has been offering the service since the fall of 2017.

If a woman orders the shot, she will not get a drink, but instead will be signalling to staff that she feels uncomfortable or unsafe on her date and needs assistance.

"We can escort the person to their car, we can call them a taxi if they wish, we can help them find their friends ....  we can call the police," said Miriam Sklar, bar manager.

"The 'angel shot' gives us a cue. We'll go as far as we need to protect our guests."

A growing number of bars around the world have been offering the secret code 'angel shot' system, but this is believed to be a first in the Okanagan. It's in response to the popularity of apps and websites that bring people together on blind dates.

Sklar said posters are hung up in the women's washrooms to advertise the program, but so far no one has ordered the fake drink.

"We're grateful that we haven't had to use it. Everybody has been on safe dates and there hasn't been a situation yet," said Sklar.

'Sexualized' nightlife culture needs to change

Sapphire Nightclub in Kelowna does not offer the code word system, but has posted signs reminding customers to protect their drinks from getting spiked.

The bar also brought in Vancouver organization, Good Night Out Vancouver, to train staff on responding to harassment and sexual assaults in the club.

Co-founder Stacey Forrester says the "angel shot" concept is a good starting point, but argues the nightlife culture needs a larger change.

"Nightclubs are often very macho, sexualized environments with a high consumption of alcohol," said Forrester of Good Night Out Vancouver.

"That sets a climate for social norms that can allow harassment to happen and go unchallenged."

Forrester said the onus should not be on women to find a bar that offers an "angel shot," but instead should be on men "who haven't been taught to properly navigate consent.

"A big-picture program would include doing work around changing those norms and creating a feeling in the crowd of wanting to check in on your neighbour," said Forrester.

The Mule on Martin started offering the 'angel shot' program a few months ago, but so far no one has required the service. (Google Maps)

The Mule on Martin in Penticton says, so far, its customers have been pleased a local business is offering such a service.

"It just gives us one more thing that we can do to make people feel safe," said Sklar.

The "angel shot" can be ordered in the following ways:

  • neat — staff will escort you to your vehicle
  • with ice — staff will call you a taxi
  • with lime — staff will call police

With files from CBC's Chris Walker and Brady Strachan

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.