Sudbury

Sudbury bars 'prioritizing a safe environment' after spiked drink incident

Several bars in Sudbury are taking precautions after a woman had her drink spiked earlier this month at the Boulevard Nightclub. The owner says they'll be adding cameras inside the bar, and they've ordered special lids to cover drinks. Staff will also be trained to watch for suspicious behaviour.

Reusable covers for drinks, security cameras specialized training for staff some of safety measures to come

The exterior of a nightclub on a sunny day.
The Boulevard Nightclub is located in downtown Sudbury. In a Facebook post the nightclub said it wants to make its space safer for patrons. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

Several establishments in Sudbury, Ont. are enhancing safety for patrons after a woman had her drink spiked earlier this month.

Cassandra Trudel had been out with a friend at the Boulevard Nightclub on June 11. She had been sipping the same drink for an hour, when she set it down and was briefly distracted. After taking a few more sips she started to have an allergic reaction to something she believes was added to her drink.

The co-owner of the Boulevard Nightclub on Durham Street says she didn't find out about the incident until Trudel posted it to social media, in an effort to warn others.

In an email to CBC News, Megan Matchem said the establishment is now planning to add cameras inside, and she's ordered special lids that fit over top of drinks.

The staff will also be getting specialized training to recognize signs of human trafficking. Trudel thinks the two women who were near her when her drink was spiked, could have been part of a human trafficking scheme.

That training comes from Know Human Trafficking, an agency that educates people about how they can help those at-risk.

"They have provided us with tools to be able to educate our staff to be able to spot and look for suspicious behaviours," Matchem said in her email.

"We have to know what we're looking for in order to stop it."

'Safety first' at The Grand

About a block away at the Grand Nightclub, owner Samantha Bourre had already started making plans to bring in the lids for drinks when she heard about the incident. 

"They come in a little scrunchie, you can unzip it, put it over your drink, there is a little hole for your straw," she said.

"We want to put in a vending machine of these, they're just not ready in Canada yet." Bourre has also ordered a disposable version, which uses a paper sticker for the top of the glass.

Those covers are expected to be in the bar by September, when Bourre said business picks up with post secondary students returning to Sudbury.

Marquee sign and front entrance to bar.
The Grand Nightclub on Elgin Street in Greater Sudbury will soon have both reusable and disposable covers for drinks, to help patrons feel safe while out. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Bourre, who has owned The Grand since October 2021, said her staff has already received provided broad training through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

"As a former server, certain things that I know that my staff knows is always make sure that the person that's ordering a drink is watching, like the way they can see you make it," she said.

She adds that on a busy night she has more staff working, so it's not difficult for the bar's security, bartenders and servers to watch out for suspicious behaviour.

"You would want your bartender to look out for you," Bourre said, adding that she would rather her staff take their time and be vigilant, than speed through an order or not pay attention and have an incident arise.

"Safety is first."

"We want you to come back. We just want everyone to leave on a safe note and come back the next weekend," she added.

Laurentian planning fun, safe Frosh Week 2022

Over at Laurentian University in Sudbury, safety is also top of mind.

"One of my priorities this year is bringing back a sense of community and togetherness on our Laurentian campus, and how do we do that in a fun way but in a way that is also safe," said Olivia Broomer, vice-president of student life with the Students' General Association (SGA) at Laurentian University. 

A university student stands with her hands on her hips.
Olivia Broomer is the vice-president of student life with the Students' General Association at Laurentian University in Sudbury. (Supplied by Oliva Broomer)

The SGA has already started planning its Frosh week for this fall, which is September 3-12.

Broomer said Nightcap lids will be included in each student's welcome package.

"We are including those in our Frosh kits this year, so students can bring them downtown with them, they can bring them out to the Laurentian pub and just have that peace of mind while they're socializing and having fun," she said.

Broomer said the lids were actually ordered prior to the news about Trudel's drink being spiked.

"I don't want people to be nervous when they go out. I want people to be able to establish their community and connect with one another, without that fear."

"It was one of the first things on our list."

Broomer also said that the SGA is planning a Pink Vest program, which will have individuals in neon pink vests during activities on campus.

"It will be student leaders who are trained in mental health, First Aid, assist, suicide prevention and they will be at every student event."

There will also be training opportunities for the staff at Laurentian's licensed establishment for students called The Pub Downunder.

"The SGA this year, we are really prioritizing a safe environment, and we want to make Laurentian both safe and fun and it can't be fun if it's not safe," Broomer said.

"We care about our students."

College life

The other two post secondary schools in Sudbury — Cambrian College and College Boreal — both say their respective pubs have been closed for the past two years because of COVID. But they do hope to re-open this fall.

A spokesperson for Cambrian said the school's Student Life Centre has security cameras to monitor the space. They also have 24-hour security on site at the college, that responds immediately if there is an incident.

The staff at the centre receive Smart Serve training, and they're also on the lookout for abnormal behaviour. Plus there is refresher training for the staff in the Student Life Centre and Security prior to the start of every new academic year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 16 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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