Order a non-fat Americano and staff at this Vancouver coffee shop will keep you safe
VANCOUVER -- If you’re in trouble, being followed or uncomfortable near Harken Coffee in Vancouver, there’s a new drink order for you: a non-fat Americano.
“An Americano (is) a drink that is just espresso and water. It doesn’t come with milk, so there is no non-fat version of it,” said founder Eldric Stuart. "We wanted to have an option for when somebody can’t just come out and say, 'Hey, I just need to get away from this person that just walked in behind me.'”
If you order that drink, it's a clue to the staff you need help - an idea similar to one sometimes used in bars and clubs.
“We’ll make sure that they have their own space and nobody else tries to go sit down with them. Pretty easy, we’re used to that with COVID,” said Stuart. He explained they would let the person hang out until help arrives, or even hide out in the back. The coffee shop also has a backdoor exit.
The idea came to him after watching the video Jamie Coutts shared on social media last week of her being followed by a strange man.
“Like we saw with the video where sometimes you can’t just call the police, sometimes you have to be a little more discrete in how you handle certain situations,” said Stuart. "We felt it was just good to get it out there that like, hey, this is a safe space for you to come in and to just get away.”
Vancouver police are still investigating the incident. On Saturday, police said in a news release they had made an arrest in an assault case, and had identified a “person of interest” in the stalking incident. CTV News then spoke with Coutts, who said she was asked to go to the station to look at suspect pictures.
“None of them were the guy,” she said Saturday night. "I’m disappointed. When I heard that they could potential have the man that followed me it was a little bit of a relief and when I left the station today and headed home, it kind of felt like it was just a couple more steps behind again."
CTV News reached out to Vancouver police Monday for an interview but they declined. In an emailed statement, Const. Tania Visintin said the suspect is still a person of interest and that “following the media coverage of the incident, which included the video captured by the victim, VPD was contacted by people familiar with the male who positively identified him.”
For Stuart and his staff, incidents like this feel quite personal.
“We have female staff members that unfortunately have to regularly deal with verbal comments as they’re walking to and from work,” he said. "We have a lot of safety protocols in place to make sure our staff our safe.”
Stuart explained he has staff walk together to the bus stop to make sure they get home safe, and wanted to extend a safety net to his customers.
“It would be lovely if other businesses, clothing stores, retail spaces, kind of also reached out and said yeah, this is a safe space and here’s what we’ll do to help if it happens,” said Stuart. But ultimately he hopes no one has to order the drink.