Bar uses 'angel shots' to prevent sexual assault

Angel Shots help people get out of unsafe situations in a bar. (AP Photo)

At least one Birmingham, Ala. bar is now using the concept of "angel shots" to help patrons who feel unsafe get out of a bad situation.

An "angel shot" is a specific drink order that's essentially code words to tell a bartender you need help. If you order the specific drink, the bartender knows you don't feel safe with the person you are with, and they will help you get out of the bar discreetly.

Inside the women's restroom at The J Clyde the local rape response hotline is now painted on the wall. And this message is on the door, "If you feel unsafe tell a server or bartender you want an Alcatraz shot. They will help you."

"If a patron is uncomfortable with someone they're with or even someone they met here and need to make a discreet exit from their present company, they order our shot," says Executive Chef Neil Ellis.

He says the bar has had an angel shot operating procedure for a couple months now. A Crisis Center worker walked bar employees through the process.

"They order the shot and we'll come get them on the pretense of something else - needing to come up to the bar or maybe take a phone call - and we'll escort them out of the premises and away from any dangerous situation," says Ellis.

The name of the shot changes regularly so that people who would use it in a negative way don't catch on.

Ellis says, "There's no reason someone should have to have a bad night...we want to avoid that at all costs."

Safe Shelby Sexual Assault Counselor Erica Barron says bartenders play an important role in today's dating world.

"In this dating world where there's all kinds of apps where you can meet strangers....[you're] going to meet at bars."

Leanne Knight, the program manager at Safe Shelby says these code word drinks could prevent sexual assaults.

"A lot of times sexual assaults could be prevented if someone stepped in...if you can prevent it from ever happening, you prevented a life-long traumatic situation."

The name of J Clyde's angel shot will change this weekend.

Safe Shelby has provided bars in the areas they serve with their own signs about how to prevent sexual assault. Knight says everyone, not just bar staff, needs to be more aware of what's happening around them and be willing to step in.

"Stepping in doesn't have to be a big scene. It can be diverting someone's attention. It can be interrupting a conversation. It can be [going] over to speak to someone else or to dance. It doesn't have to be confrontational; but if you can redirect that, it will go a long way in preventing something bad from happening."

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