Get our free newsletter

On his 21st birthday, D.C. bartender Mike Bokman had his drink drugged and woke up several hours later in a Greyhound bus station, bloody and disoriented. Now, seven years later, he and his lifelong best friend Frank Mills, a bartender at Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, have created DrinkLock to help combat date rape.

The “reverse coaster” consists of a square adhesive seal that you peel off of the 4-by-4-inch base, which can be used as an actual coaster, before affixing it to the top of your drink, allowing you to leave it unattended to use the restroom or go outside. When you remove the seal, it will read “void” on either side if anyone has tampered with it. Plus, each seal has a unique identifying number to ensure that the DrinkLock has not been replaced by another one.

As a bartender—Bokman works at Hill Country Barbecue, although he is careful to point out that it is his own personal experiences and not anything that occurred at the bar that led him to create DrinkLock—Bokman has heard several horror stories of date rape aside from his own.

“We are bartenders, and we do see it on a daily basis and hear stories about it, so we want to relay the message to people who are unaware,” he says. “Half the people I talk to about it didn’t know this stuff really happens.”

In college, Bokman also rented a room from Joey Poindexter, the suspect charged with sexually assaulting young men at beer-pong tournaments. “He seemed like a nice and normal guy, and it just goes to show that you truly can’t trust anyone,” he says.

Bokman knows he won’t eradicate rape—which is often a critique of products like the date rape–detecting nail polish that was released last month—but he views DrinkLock as an important step that people can take toward their own safety.

“We’re not trying to prevent rape. We know it’s a huge problem. It’s like world hunger, you can’t change it,” he says. “What we like to say is we are the first line of defense, so basically what that means is as soon as you want to do something to protect your drink, you put the seal on it.” Having a seal also protects against all chemicals—not just the most common ones.

Bokman and Mills aim to distribute DrinkLock to bars and bartenders across the country and even the world, and to make it available for individual purchase. Ultimately, they hope that liquor companies will purchase advertising space on the coasters to subsidize the cost and promote widespread reach.

“It’s not targeted just for women because they have nail polish,” Bokman says. “We want everybody and anybody to use our product. It’s for men, for women, for everybody, any language.”

DrinkLock has launched a Kickstarter campaign, which ends on Oct. 12. If it achieves its $25,000 goal, Bokman hopes to have the product released by Christmas, so parents and relatives can give DrinkLock to their college-aged kids for the holidays.

“Where it’s ultimately going to do the most good is in college, because this is where the stuff really happens,” Bokman says. He hopes to tour local universities soon to raise awareness on this front.

Bokman and Mills debuted DrinkLock at DCFest last month, and have received rave reviews so far from people all over the country—especially from victims. “It’s bringing them a sense of hope back,” Bokman says.

Photos courtesy DrinkLock