A WEST Cork bar owner is on a mission to stamp out so-called “catfish” incidents at his restaurant with a new initiative designed to protect the safety of female customers.
James Casey, owner of Casey’s Bar and Restaurant in Clonakilty, felt compelled to act after noticing a customer’s distress when a man she met through an online dating site didn’t match his profile picture.
Mr Casey recalled how he had maintained a subtle presence around their table to ensure the woman didn’t run into any danger.
The encounter sparked a clever idea that’s now receiving much praise from the public.
He explained that customers can order the “angel shot” to alert their server to an uncomfortable situation.
An order of a “neat” angel shot prompts a staff member to escort the customer to their car while a “dressed angel shot” is code for someone to call a taxi.
Requesting a lime with the angel shot gives permission for staff to immediately call the gardaí.
He recalled how the idea began.
“I came up with it after seeing a woman’s shock when the guy she had met on a dating site was a completely different person to his picture,” he said.
“It was unnerving when she told him that he was completely different from his profile picture. She didn’t raise her voice but you could tell she was serious. I knew she wasn’t happy or comfortable so I stayed around with the brush and pan to make it look like I was cleaning around that area. I could tell by her body language that she was extremely uncomfortable. Even her legs were pointed in the direction of the exit which indicated to me that she didn’t want to be there.”
He added: “They had a drinks order, but the date didn’t last five minutes. She got up and left and we saw her return to her car safely.”
However, he said that just the idea of presenting a false identity was sinister enough in nature.
“I don’t know why someone would pretend to be someone they’re not when they’re inevitably going to be caught. The last thing I want is to see is someone at the other end of this getting into trouble.”
Mr Casey’s initiative comes four years after the nationwide roll-out of the “Ask for Angela” campaign which was designed as a safety mechanism for those feeling unsafe on a night out. The codeword was similar in that it alerted bar staff to safety concerns from a customer.
Initially introduced in Waterford by the city council in November of 2017, Ask for Angela was widely referred to nationwide.
“Before someone could go to the bar and ‘ask for Angela’," James said.
“However, with Covid it’s all table service now so these things have gotten harder to do. The only time you really meet the staff now is when they come over to your table to ask if you’re OK.”
Working in security and, as a retained firefighter, opened James’ eyes to the dangers all around us.
“I used to work in security in Havana Browns and Rearden’s in Cork which helped me a lot when it came to judging people’s body language. Sometimes it’s not just about the fright you get when you find yourself in a situation like this. It can also affect a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s not a nice thing to be tricked like that. Most just sit it out and wait for the date to be over.”
James said he finds helping people very rewarding.
“When someone is at their worst and you can help them then that’s a good feeling.”