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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Downtown Spokane bar says it will implement new policies amid claims of drugged drinks

On Monday Gene Gallagher said he’d heard too many stories of drink tampering at the Globe Bar & Kitchen and taped a sign onto a lamp post across the street: “Women keep getting drugged at the Globe. This is not OK.” ((COURTESY))
On Monday Gene Gallagher said he’d heard too many stories of drink tampering at the Globe Bar & Kitchen and taped a sign onto a lamp post across the street: “Women keep getting drugged at the Globe. This is not OK.” ((COURTESY))

Gene Gallagher decided he’d heard too many stories of drink tampering at the Globe Bar & Kitchen, so Monday he taped a sign onto a lamp post across the street: “Women keep getting drugged at the Globe. This is not OK.”

Later that morning, he claimed credit for the sign on Facebook, which has been shared 900 times and drawn 400 comments as of Thursday – some of them are from people who say they were also drugged.

In response, the Globe posted a news release to its Facebook page announcing it is creating new policies to guard against drink tampering.

New measures at the Globe will include posting educational signage, putting lids on disposable cups used for drinks at night and training staff to look for signs that someone may have been drugged. Globe owner Scott Wilburn said the bar will also reiterate longstanding policies about throwing away and remaking drinks that are unattended or suspected to have been tampered with.

“There’s been a lot of talk on social media,” Wilburn said.

Wilburn would not say how many posts it took to get his attention, adding that “it really just takes one.”

On June 22, a woman left a Facebook review alleging her brother-in-law and others were “roofied,” alluding to drinks spiked with Rohypnol, a tranquilizer (illegal in the U.S.) associated with date rape. The day before Gallagher’s post, another woman left a review on the bar’s page alleging she and others had been drugged before. Bar managers replied to both reviews asking for more details.

The issue also got attention after a KHQ story in 2017 when a woman wanted to warn others after she thought she was the victim of drink tampering at the bar. Joey Larocque, the general manager at the time, told KHQ the bar had new security cameras and staff would undergo extra training.

Gallagher said he’s heard allegations of drink tampering at the Globe Bar & Kitchen for years, and the final straw was when a friend recently posted on Facebook sharing her experience of being “roofied.”

When he saw a piece of cardboard in an alley across the street, he decided to make the issue more visible.

“Maybe we’ll see a change,” Gallagher said. “I want people who are involved to come forth, whether it’s just sharing their experiences and creating an awareness in the community or if it leads to further investigation.”

Wilburn said managers haven’t found evidence of drink tampering in the past when reviewing security footage, but they want to be proactive.

Police said if people are the victims of drink tampering, they need to report it to law enforcement.

“This was new on my radar,” said Spokane police Lt. Steve Braun, who works in the downtown precinct and oversees the bar patrols.

Braun said he went through his notes from the last two months of downtown call logs and after-action reports and didn’t find any drink tampering incidents. He said the bar patrols most often make arrests for disorderly conduct and fights that lead to misdemeanor assault charges.

Going back to last year, Braun said crime analysts found a couple of incidents in which patrons at downtown bars other than the Globe said they felt unusual at the end of the night but were unsure if they were drugged.

Lutheran Community Services Northwest, which operates a sexual assault crisis line and app in Spokane, recently has seen a small spike in alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual violence related to downtown bars, director Erin Williams Hueter said.

She said LCS goes with victims to the hospital, but they leave reporting a crime up to them. It’s also difficult to prove someone has been drugged because it isn’t standard to test for them in cases of sexual violence, and the drugs leave the body quickly, she said.

“I think each individual survivor has to make the choice (to report) for themselves,” she said.

Gonzaga University receives one or two reports of drink tampering each year, Title IX Director Stephanie Whaley said. She couldn’t say where these incidents occurred or who the allegations involved.

“We absolutely encourage” victims to report incidents to the police, she said. The school’s health education office also has a program focused on alcohol and drug safety that includes drink tampering.

Wilburn owned a bar near GU called Scotty’s Doghouse from 2015-17 and said there were never allegations of drink tampering in person or on social media. The bar had a similar policy regarding remaking drinks.

Cheney police haven’t had a report of drink tampering in at least a year, Capt. Rick Beghtol said.

“Normally, when we get those reports it wasn’t that it was an establishment, it was that it was at a house party,” he said. He added that a toxicology report hasn’t come back positive for anything but alcohol in the nine years he has been in Cheney.

Beghtol said these incidents tend to be concentrated around the Eastern Washington University area.

EWU Title IX Coordinator Jeff Lamoureaux said he hasn’t investigated any incidents of drink tampering since he joined the Title IX office in 2017. He said student conduct processes generally involve house parties and he hadn’t heard of anything involving the Globe or other downtown bars. EWU students who are victims of crimes are also encouraged to report them to law enforcement.

Wilburn said he and other managers are combing through security camera footage that is saved from the past six months to investigate recent claims.

He said social media posts claiming that bar tenders could be involved in drink tampering are unfounded, because their actions are always in view of security camera footage that has been reviewed in the past.

Wilburn is also meeting with other downtown bar managers this week to discuss safety and other concerns.

“This problem is larger than The Globe. We are starting a local coalition of bars committed to taking the necessary steps to eradicate drink tampering,” Wilburn wrote in Monday’s news release. “Our mission is to cultivate a safe and positive atmosphere throughout downtown Spokane.”

Spokane police spokesman Sgt. Terry Preuninger said any new measures will be a positive thing.

“They’re probably going to a better job monitoring overservice. They’re probably going to take better care of their patrons,” he said.

Those who wish to report drink tampering to law enforcement can call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233. Lutheran Community Services Northwest can connect victims to resources through its 24/7 crisis line at (509) 624-7273.

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