New pro­gram cre­ates code word for bar cus­tomers in un­com­fort­able or un­safe sit­u­a­tions

Bars im­ple­ment sys­tem for cus­tomers that find them­selves in a bad sit­u­a­tion

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Hor­wath

Bars across Santa Fe are ad­ver­tis­ing a new type of shot that could help cus­tomers get out of trou­ble rather than into it.

Ask a bar­tender for an An­gel Shot, and you won’t get al­co­hol. In­stead, it’s a code by which cus­tomers can sig­nal that they may be in a dan­ger­ous or un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion — a Tin­der date, for in­stance, who is mak­ing un­wanted ad­vances. Tin­der is a pop­u­lar dat­ing app.

New posters spon­sored by Santa Fe County have gone up in re­strooms at par­tic­i­pat­ing es­tab­lish­ments with in­struc­tions on how it works. If you or­der an An­gel Shot “neat,” you are ask­ing to be es­corted to your vehicle by a bar em­ployee. If you or­der an An­gel Shot with ice, you are ask­ing the server to find you a ride home from a ride-book­ing ser­vice such as Uber or Lyft.

Or­der an An­gel Shot with lime, and you are ask­ing the server to call po­lice.

“We are deadly se­ri­ous,” the posters say. “This could save your life.”

Peter Ol­son, DWI preven­tion spe­cial­ist for Santa Fe County, said county spon­sor­ship of the An­gel Shot pro­gram came out of meet­ings in April be­tween city, county, busi­ness and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to ad­dress con­cerns about four reports of sex­ual as­saults of women who were drink­ing al­co­hol at bars in the Rai­l­yard and down­town.

Ol­son would not name the es­tab­lish­ments. He said the sex­ual as­saults oc­curred be­tween Jan­uary and April, and that there were dif­fer­ent per­pe­tra­tors in each case.

“The gen­eral facts were it was a woman, over­served, in­tox­i­cated, [who] was taken ad­van­tage of,” Ol­son said.

Santa Fe po­lice Lt. Ju­dah Ben Mon­taño said he could not dis­close more de­tails about the cases be­cause po­lice are still ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing them.

The An­gel Shot idea is to give a per­son an al­ter­na­tive way of seek­ing help if they are feel­ing un­com­fort­able, said Santa Fe po­lice spokesman Greg Gu­rulé. The pro­gram, he said, “sounded like a good idea that might help defuse some tense sit­u­a­tions and help avoid prob­lems, so we are on board with it.”

“It doesn’t have to be a rape

[threat],” Gu­rulé said. “[It] can be any­thing that would make a per­son un­com­fort­able with an­other. The sys­tem is al­ready work­ing in states like Cal­i­for­nia and Florida.”

The Lin­colnshire Rape Cri­sis Cen­ter in Eng­land re­port­edly started the idea last year with posters en­cour­ag­ing women to “Ask for An­gela” as a way of sig­nal­ing bar staff to dis­cretely help with a ride home be­cause they are in an un­safe sit­u­a­tion with a date, ac­cord­ing to BBC News. The posters went vi­ral on so­cial media, and the idea spread across the pond.

Box­car, a bar and restau­rant on Guadalupe Street in the Santa Fe Rai­l­yard, was per­haps the first bar to in­tro­duce the idea in Santa Fe, even be­fore the county pro­vided spon­sor­ship.

Syl­wia Handzel, 28, two years ago took over own­er­ship of the bar with her boyfriend, Tate Mruz, gen­eral man­ager. A ren­o­va­tion stress­ing more light­ing and open space was one way to up­grade the bar’s im­age, said Handzel, who was a server at the es­tab­lish­ment’s pre­de­ces­sor, Junc­tion.

An­gel Shot posters were an­other way to cre­ate a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for women, she said. Box­car be­gan putting up its own posters in the women’s re­stroom last year at the sug­ges­tion of a reg­u­lar cus­tomer who saw the idea on so­cial media, Handzel said.

“You want people to feel safe,” she said.

Handzel said there have been no reports of sex­ual as­saults of Box­car cus­tomers after they put up the An­gel Shot posters, and no cus­tomer has or­dered an An­gel Shot with lime to sig­nal for po­lice.

Three cus­tomers have re­quested an An­gel Shot since the posters went up, she said. In the first case, a Box­car em­ployee es­corted a woman to her car after a man was be­ing “fresh” with her, ac­cord­ing to Handzel.

In the sec­ond case, a man or­dered the shot as a joke, she said. The joke did not go over well with staff, she said, and the man was em­bar­rassed.

“That was re­ceived with grave looks,” she said.

In the third case, a woman re­quested an Uber, she said. In such in­stances, the bar will or­der an Uber from its own ac­count at no charge, Handzel said. She said she’s not wor­ried about a cus­tomer abus­ing the An­gel Shot to get a free ride, but will ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion if it arises.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, Iva Voyles, 50, ate lunch at Box­car’s bar with her hus­band, Trinidad Aragon, 50. Voyles said the An­gel Shot pro­gram is a great idea, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how the in­ter­net changed the dat­ing scene over the years. When she was younger, she said, it was rare for a woman to date a man she had not al­ready pre­vi­ously met or knew through other con­nec­tions.

Now, she said, “people are meet­ing on­line be­fore they meet in per­son.”

Aragon said he worked se­cu­rity for Santa Fe liquor es­tab­lish­ments for more than three decades, in­clud­ing Cheeks and The Bar­rel­house, now closed. He es­ti­mated that in 32 years work­ing bar se­cu­rity, women asked him on more than 1,000 dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions to sep­a­rate them from a man.

Ol­son said not much county fund­ing is go­ing into the pro­gram. The county paid Firetik Stu­dio of Santa Fe to de­sign the posters, and bev­er­age dis­trib­u­tor South­ern Glazer’s Wine and Spir­its is pick­ing up the print­ing costs for 150 posters.

Ol­son said he has dis­trib­uted posters to 25 dif­fer­ent es­tab­lish­ments. The county does not track whether some­one or­ders an An­gel Shot, Ol­son said.

Cir­cum­stances that may war­rant a re­quest for an An­gel Shot are in­ten­tion­ally vague. The posters ask: “Do you feel un­safe or even just a bit weird? Here’s how to ask for help. Go to the bar and or­der an AN­GEL SHOT.”

Sim­i­lar ver­sions of the pro­gram across the coun­try only put the posters in women’s bath­rooms. But Ol­son said that in Santa Fe the posters may also be found in men’s re­strooms “be­cause of the gay, les­bian pop­u­la­tion, it’s not just man on woman; it could be male on male or fe­male on fe­male.”

The city also has an or­di­nance re­quir­ing that sin­gle-stall pub­lic re­strooms must be gen­derneu­tral.

Ol­son said that while busi­ness and law en­force­ment lead­ers de­bated about how place­ment of the posters might tip off po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tors, “we de­cided that it was more im­por­tant for ev­ery­body to know that this is an op­tion and an easy way to ask for help be­cause, es­pe­cially younger people … don’t al­ways know how to ask for help.”

Mon­taño said any­one who feels un­com­fort­able can call po­lice di­rectly; the An­gel Shot with a lime is just an­other way to do that when some­one does not know who to turn to.

The posters also are on the walls of the city po­lice head­quar­ters, and of­fi­cers are aware of the pro­gram.

“What we tell ev­ery­body is just know where you’re at, know who you’re around,” Mon­taño said. “… And any­time you feel un­com­fort­able, we’ll be there, from ev­ery­thing to in­ves­ti­gate a crime or just to walk some­one to their cars to en­sure that they make it home safe.”

GABRIELA CAM­POS/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

Syl­wia Handzel, a Box­car owner, said by putting up An­gel Shot posters was an­other way to cre­ate a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for women. Box­car is one of the bars in Santa Fe that im­ple­ments the ‘An­gel Shot’ pro­gram to sig­nal bar­tenders that a cus­tomer is be­ing ha­rassed and needs as­sis­tance.

An­gel Shot posters were an­other way to cre­ate a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for women, said Box­car co-owner Syl­wia Handzel.

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