One of the most popular student bars in Manchester, 256 is located in Fallowfield, right across from the student campus. However, in recent weeks they have received complaints of drink spiking on their premises. The Women’s Rugby Society boycotted the bar after one of their members was spiked there. We interviewed 256’s manager and owner, Keith Ifield, to ask how they felt about spiking in Manchester and their bar, and what they are going to do about it.
Ifield assured us that they have all of their door staff trained to spot incidents. Along with this, they have also created a first-aid room to help with any incidents that may have taken place, including spiking. 256 have also put body cameras on the door staff and upgraded their CCTV cameras.
Additionally, 256 has started to perform daily searches, whilst keeping a record of any contraband they find. Ifield added, “While it may seem a bit harsh I think it’s what’s needed at the moment.” This goes along with their “strict no drug policy.” He said that anyone caught with drugs will be held accountable, and the police would be immediately called to arrest them. This policy is enforced not just on guests, but staff as well. Student-only nights will also have these searches, and anyone who refuses to be searched, would not be allowed in.
When asked why the focus on students, Ifield replied saying: “On the nights we’ve had spiking issues … they were student-only events […] Now it seems it’s students spiking students.” The 256 management are trying to understand this shift in trend, even saying that they have had two meetings in the past month with the GMP on why this could be the case, however, they have no answers yet. Ifield also commented: “This year feels different.”
“Now it seems it’s students spiking students.”Keith Ifield
Along with this, 256 believe that they need to “protect their customers better.” As a result, they are introducing wristbands where people can write their emergency contact details. Ifield knows that not everyone would like to wear one, however, he said: “If it helps one person, it’s been a success for me.” He believes that this is an important step that they are taking to protect their customers. Along with this, 256 are also introducing drug testing kits, which would be available at all times and free of charge.
Ifield has also had conversations with the GMP, however, they get the idea that the GMP haven’t got a lot of answers. 256 have sent in some of their own security in “plainclothes” to be in with the crowd in the bar. In case these security guards find any suspicious behaviour they would pull out their badge and show the person out. 256 have also asked the GMP to help them with undercover cops, however, this hasn’t happened yet. Ifield believes that the GMP does not cover Fallowfield to the extent that they should.
He mentioned that 256 is the only “family-owned” business in Fallowfield, hence they get targeted a lot. However, He believes that other establishments around them should be doing more when protecting their customers. This includes having training that is not just online. 256 have also partnered up with other safety campaigns and have asked them to train their staff when it comes to drink spiking and customer safety. Stating: “we’re constantly thinking and trying to come up with new ways [to stay safe]. As long as companies are prepared to invest in the customer, I think long in the long term they’ll get it back.”
Ifield also mentions that they have a 9-year-old daughter, hence they see this as a “personal issue” as well. He states: “It’s kind of good in a way that I’m not just a manager, but I see it from a father’s perspective.” He mentioned that women have absolutely no blame for this, however, they wish to provide women with tools to protect themselves. This includes stuff like their app sending a push notification after a customer leaves saying, “Make sure you get home safe. If you feel unsafe, come and see a member of staff.”
256’s management also said that every one of their emails has always asked people to let them know of ways to tackle spiking, saying that they would like to know if they have not thought of policies that their customers might have. Ifield believes that in this way they could have the whole community work together, cooperating with each other and ensuring utmost safety. He said: “Everyone needs to understand that this is a serious, serious issue and we have to be on top of it.”
Revolution’s Oxford Road bar and nightclub in Deansgate Locks are often populated by students and in recent months they have received complaints of drink spiking within their premises. We approached the management of Revolution, and they confirmed to us that they are ensuring that their team is fully trained and licensed door staff would be checking their customers. They have stated, “We enforce a strict zero-tolerance policy to abusive behaviour and have CCTV coverage throughout our bars.” Along with this, their own-ground staff would be removing unattended drinks and have training in identifying and supporting “vulnerable guests.” The bars would also be handing out free foil to cover drinks when requested by customers.
The Great Central – Wetherspoons
The Great Central is right next to the student campus, while the majority of their guests are not students, they still receive a large student crowd. No spiking report has been made public in this Wetherspoons as of yet, however, we still believed it important to interview them as they are such a large chain of bars and have a bar so close to the student campus. They said that they provide online training to their bar staff on how to deal with spikings. They have a zero drug-tolerance policy, and any staff member caught with drugs, regardless of use, will be immediately fired. In case of spikings, they have said that they would order a taxi and find the friends of the person who has been spiked. If need be, they would also call for an ambulance. They would use the “Ask for Angela” policy put forth by the MET, to call the police to the bars. The customers are allowed to leave their drinks behind the bar, or take them to the loo and even outside, in an attempt to reduce pressure on leaving them unattended. However, Wetherspoons will not be providing cling film, as they want to reduce their use of plastics.
The Studio Bar
Up the road from The Great Central, and next door to 256, Studio is another popular bar in Fallowfield by students and locals alike. When speaking with the manager, it was made clear all staff are trained to “Both recognise and deal with the signs,” of spiking and harassment. Throughout the night, the bar’s bouncers and glass collectors (who are also trained) act as extra eyes to ensure all customers are safe. After some personal research done by the manager, The Studio has joined Wetherspoons in adopting the “Ask for Angela”, placing this information in every toilet, regardless of gender. Across the UK however, there’s a long wait for lids, with The Studio Bar being no exception. Male customers are also likely to be searched at the door due to men often being the perpetrators of spiking incidents. The bar commented that they would not be comfortable having male door staff ‘frisk’ female customers. During the interview, Studio’s manager placed a strong emphasis on not putting the blame on women, but instead “Putting as much information out there,” If someone believes their drinks been spiked, the bar will immediately replace it free of charge (if requested by the customer) or stay with the customer, making sure they remain safe and receive aid.
Located in Oak House, Squirrels is a student-only bar. Customers are only admitted with a student ID after bags have been searched – a standard practice now with most UoM bars. The bar’s UoM’s spokesperson stated: “We are working with various agencies including student partners and Greater Manchester Police as part of the Sexual Violence Action Network for Students on this issue.” Again, customer safety is a priority, with anti-spiking devices for bottles soon to become available at the bar. Staff are trained to handle and respond to spiking and any vulnerable customers. The spokesperson added the staff also work closely with UoM’s ResLife and security team, and encourage students to contact security immediately if they’ve been spiked or need support. This can be done via the SafeZone app, or by calling the number on the back of all UoM student cards. The same goes for Whitworth Park residents at The Grove, who are run by the same organisation.