'Angela' standing by at Ottawa bar to help patrons out of bad dates

Patrons at Ottawa's Bar Robo whose Tinder dates have gone sour now have a safe way out: They can go to the bar and ask for Angela.

Code phrase prompts staff at Ottawa's Bar Robo to intervene discreetly

The Ask for Angela campaign began in the U.K. as a way to help patrons extricate themselves from bad dates or other uncomfortable situations in bars and night clubs. (Shutterstock/Ph.wittaya)

Are you on a date that isn't working out? Do you feel like you're not in a safe situation? Does it all feel a bit weird?

People who can answer yes to any of those questions while on a date at one Ottawa bar now have a safe way out: They can approach staff and ask for Angela.
These posters are in the washrooms and near the front door at Bar Robo on Somerset Street W. in Ottawa's Chinatown. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

That's the password behind a global safety campaign that's been adopted by Bar Robo in Ottawa's Chinatown neighbourhood.

The idea is simple: If a patron's Tinder date is going sour or they're feeling harassed, he or she can go to the bar and ask for Angela, prompting trained staff to step in and discreetly deal with the situation.

"Once our staff hears that, they can offer assistance, escort you out of the property, call a taxi, or find a safe space for you in the bar," said Scott May, Bar Robo's co-owner.
Scott May is co-owner of Bar Robo. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"Our customers can feel safe bringing any potential issues to attention."

Posters describing how "Ask for Angela" works are near the bar's front door and in the gender-neutral washrooms.

May said the business decided to adopt the campaign, which originated in the U.K., after learning that one of their clients had a negative experience on a particularly busy night at the bar.

"There was an incident that did occur and we could have done a much better job of handling it if we had known," said May.

"The challenge is that if we don't see it, it's hard for us to respond appropriately."

'A great 1st step'

Kira-Lynn Ferderber teaches sexual violence prevention to volunteers and staff at bars and festivals. She applauds how the campaign has focussed attention on the issue of sexual violence in community gathering places, but said there's still more to be done.
Kira-Lynn Ferderber teaches sexual violence prevention to volunteers and staff at bars and festivals. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"I think it's a great first step, but it can't be the only solution," Ferderber said.

"One of the most important ways that staff can prevent sexual violence is keeping an eye on people who are over-intoxicated."

Ferdeber said venues serving up alcohol and entertainment should understand that their responsibility for their patrons' safety doesn't end at the exit.  She said sexual predators often target vulnerable and intoxicated victims, and the assaults often occur at another location, after the victim has left the bar — and the opportunity to ask for Angela — behind. 

"Unfortunately in the service industry there has been an attitude [that] if someone is overserved and heavily intoxicated, we kick them out, and that does not help keep people safe.

"So what we need is door people, security, bartenders to not let someone who is vulnerable go out of the door."

In the two weeks since Bar Robo introduced the campaign, no one has asked for Angela.