Don’t get me wrong, boycotts are one of the most powerful ways we can enact change as consumers today. Not only that, but they’re empowering to engage in. I remember when ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ refused to sell their ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements. I thought, wow, somebody’s finally responding to Israel with an appropriate and economically devastating action. However, I believe that boycotting clubs is not quite as fitting a response to the spiking crisis.
Having worked in a city nightclub myself, most of these places are very good at making up for a one-night loss. Deals on shots and deals on doubles. Not to mention how much they’re up-charging you for those Jägerbombs. Essentially, an economic boycott on a Wednesday – especially with Halloween weekend coming right after – isn’t really going to hit clubs as harshly as we have all been made to believe on Instagram.
Not that this isn’t important to engage with. It’s great to see fellow students taking this crisis seriously. Being willing to boycott Wednesday night sports socials is certainly a step in the right direction. But there are more effective, and even easier, ways to demand change from our local clubs.
We’re all very used to opening our Instagram and being instantly comforted by how socially aware all our peers are. The infographics are everywhere. I know I often turn off my phone, satisfied and comforted with how socially conscious we all are. I completely forget the whole internet isn’t seeing the story on spiking I’ve just seen.
I’d argue that managers of clubs, bouncers and non-student bar staff probably have no idea that there is currently so much student discourse on spiking. For that reason, most clubs will take a minor profit hit on Wednesday without even knowing it had anything to do with spiking. Managers will just think they had a bit of an anomalous Wednesday.
Hence I think it’s so important, if people have the time and are able, to directly communicate with local club managers. From my experience in the club industry, I really do think managers will be more affected by a stream of emails and calls demanding a response to the spiking crisis, than a fluke Wednesday night.
Many big city nightclubs – like Manchester’s ‘Factory’ – have a lost property email, a job enquiries email and a general one. They almost always have a number. I think a more appropriate response, to really force club managers to engage with us, would be to consistently bother them through these channels. Email them saying they are losing your business on the 27th of October and won’t be getting it back. Not until they put concrete plans into place to reduce spiking. This doesn’t have to be the case, by all means still go clubbing. But you’re much more likely to get a response.
This way, we are not only taking up their time, but genuinely forcing them to sit down and think: What are the most effective ways to reduce spiking? Am I employing the right security staff to handle this crisis? How can I ensure people feel safe in my club?
Similarly, contacting your local MP is another important step I believe we should all take. Some of the solutions to spiking that have been suggested, such as increased searching powers for bouncers, actually might have negative repercussions. Increased searching powers disproportionately affect black men, as we have learnt from the discourse surrounding BLM and defunding the police. And, given the Sarah Everard tragedy, many vulnerable women no longer feel safe around the police or other such institutions of authority. So that’s roughly about 54% of the UK population who can’t trust official law enforcement already.
It will take a lot of thinking and trialling new methods to solve the spiking crisis. And ultimately, finding these solutions is the job of our policy-makers. Not only are they legally required to respond to any email you send them; but having this debated in Parliament could lead to professionals being consulted at the highest level on what the best solutions could be.
It is also important to raise with our MPs how unreliable transport home is for women, and vulnerable men, as of late. Ubers are no longer safe or certain. While it is a privilege to be able to call an Uber home from a night out, I believe as many constant and dependable methods of getting home need to be available for women and non-binary people to feel safer.
The profit that clubs will make over the weekend, with Halloween on Sunday, will probably be huge. Ask your local clubs – Factory, 42s, Hidden, 256 – what they are going to do to make students feel safer. Drink lids are not enough with the rising cases of needles being used to spike people.
Ask them to employ medics onsite. Make sure spiked people get home safe, and free of charge, with a friend, policewoman or trusted member of staff accompanying them. Most importantly, train bar staff and bouncers to believe those who see suspicious activity or feel as though they have been spiked. Countless times, intoxicated women, non-binary people and men are kicked out for arguing with bouncers, without their coat, only to be left vulnerable on the street. Just as the spiker would’ve intended.