June 21, 2007 — -- Safe-sipping martinis, pure lager pints and untouched tumblers of Scotch.
Consider it the cocktail's condom equivalent.
In barrooms around the world, revelers can purchase condoms from bathroom dispensers to ward off sexually transmitted diseases that may follow a one-night fling.
Now, a city councilor from Boston wants the city's licensing board, alcohol manufacturers and owners of nightclubs and bars to seriously consider cocktail covers, a creation that Massachusetts inventor Greg Barry says will deter would-be predators from slipping date-rape drugs into the drinks of unsuspecting victims.
"There are ways to try to educate people," said Stephen Murphy, the head of the Boston City Council's Public Safety Committee and the man pushing the issue into the spotlight. "I can't make them change the regulations, but I can require the licensing board to come in."
Murphy wants to gather the industry players to discuss the topic of laced alcoholic beverages at bars, a problem he says Boston is ripe for, given the large number of college and graduate school coeds that help drive the city's nightclub scene.
More specifically, Murphy wants bars to consider offering customers the cocktail covers designed by Barry, who is currently trying to patent his prevention device.
The concept behind the cocktail cover is fairly simply. About the size of a coaster, it can be used to cap a drink that goes unattended. When a person returns to a beverage, there is a layer that can be pulled back, leaving a thin sheath protecting the cocktail. That can be punctured with a straw or pulled off entirely — either way the drinker will know that the cocktail has not been tampered with.
"It gives patrons the impression that at least it's a problem," said Barry. "The bar owners don't want to introduce it on their own, so someone suggested I talk to someone at the City Council and see if they can move it along."
Barry said that companies could advertise on the cocktail covers, likely covering the cost of production. Each cover, he said, costs less than 10 cents to make.
But Dan Pokaski, chairman of the Boston Licensing Board, laughed off Murphy's interest in the cocktail cover.
"Why don't we go to a sippy cup?" Pokaski asked. "I love Stephen Murphy and there's obviously some merit to preventing someone from slipping something into a drink, but this is overkill."
Pokaski also said that enforcing any kind of mandatory dispensing of cocktail covers, in addition to being unnecessary "micromanaging," would be impossible to enforce at Boston bars — and inefficient.
"In Boston, we don't have a major problem with date-rape drugs," Pokaski said. "Does it happen from time to time? Yes. Is it a major problem? No. This is like taking a sledgehammer to a flea."
Date-rape drugs include Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine. Rohypnol, when combined with alcohol, produces a state called "anterograde amnesia," in which a person forgets what happens while under the influence of the drug.
Murphy was not distracted by Pokaski's criticism. He also said he was ready for a backlash from bar and nightclub owners and suggested the city might be able to provide incentives to bars that offer the cocktail covers.
"It's about protecting young women," Murphy said.