The Angel Shot: Do anti-harassment campaigns work?

By Alli Hayes

I’m a well-seasoned member of the hospitality industry, and I often sit bleary eyed and counting receipts after my serving shift around 1 am. Sometimes I can’t help but think about some of the individuals I encounter, and the encounters they have that brings them to the bar in the first place.

It’s pretty common for someone in the restaurant industry to pick up on whether a guest is on an online date. Usually it goes like this: during my shift I approach the host entrance, where a woman clinging to her iPhone avoids my eyes to glance around the busy room. She asks me if this is a hotel, and I correct her, telling her she’s in the restaurant section. She’s “waiting for someone” and seems unsure about settling in, but I talk her into grabbing a table and, sure enough, a man walks through the door and acknowledges her. I can smell awkward love in the air. I don’t end up serving the date, but my colleague mentions they’re drinking slowly and seem indecisive.

This is definitely a milder Tinder date compared to situations that have been reported in areas of the UK. In 2014,  there were close to 200 rape reports after first-time online meet ups.

Coming up with a drink order strategy such as the Angel Shot to signal to bar staff that you are in a bad situation is fair enough: you make the request to your server or bartender and you will either be escorted to your car, to an Uber (which we don’t have here  in Vancouver), or a call to the police is made, depending on how you order the shot.

Order an Angel Shot neat, you’ll get walked to your car. Order it on the rocks, you’ll have an Uber or cab called for you. Order it with a twist of lime, and the bartender will call the cops for you.

To be frank, there are a few reasons that simply ordering a drink as a signal for action isn’t the best option for harm reduction. These types of campaigns have been sprouting up around the US and the UK, even in St. John’s,  where the Women’s Council Exec Jenny Wright has expressed enthusiasm for its necessity in the bar industry.

That’s great it’s being recognized as a women’s issue, since statistics show 85 percent of reports were from female victims, but how does this get implemented into an industry where every business runs differently? What kinds of businesses can integrate a campaign into their training, and make sure that those trained staff are working accordingly? They can’t be there 24/7. Even management isn’t around at all times, especially during the wee hours of the morning when half of the city is getting lit and trying to mingle.

Those that work in hospitality deal with a wide range of harassment daily, whether it’s something they witness or something that’s directed towards them. I know I have. Much of the time, harassment goes unacknowledged because it’s customer service.

Steph Parkes, event coordinator maven and one of the founders of electronic music meet-up Groundwerk, shared a few words about how these types of campaigns turn into additional training, and how high staff turnover can make it a moot point.

It should be, first and foremost, the manager’s responsibility to intervene in a bad situation rather than have a victim call for an Angel Shot with lime.

The unfortunate reality is that your server most likely has 30 or more people to deal with at the exact same moment, so fixing the issue would not be easy and matters would have to be taken into alternate hands. If we look at the stats from the UK’s National Crime Agency, 71 percent of rape reports occur at the victim’s or the offender’s home — not at the bar. At this point, the campaign seems to be an aggressive sales pitch to try and snub out offenders prematurely, where they are more unlikely to commit rape or harassment in public compared to the comfort of their home.

If you are interested in linking to harm reduction strategies in Vancouver, be sure to check out Good Night Out .

Alli is a wildcard. Faux fur is her wingman. She is constantly moved by art, cool parties, and independent film, and continues to create her own projects. She wishes her photographic memory did her Instagram more justice.  Check out her blog at