VIPs in a Nightclub

We received a number of interesting responses to our last post on Executive Protection in a Nightclub Environment. One of the most common questions asked was, “What is Security’s responsibility when a VIP arrives?” In light of last week’s post and a number of incidents involving VIPs in Nightclubs, it seems like the perfect time to tackle this subject matter!

Who’s Responsible?

First off, you must keep in mind that in the eyes of the law, a VIP customer is just that…a customer. They are not extended (by the law anyway) any privileges beyond any other customer’s. And as such, they should not technically receive any special treatment or be kept “safer” than your other Patrons. HOWEVER, should you or your club sign any type of agreement or contract that provides Security specifically for this particular VIP, you ARE responsible for that VIP’s security above any other Patrons. That means you keep them safe first, and let someone else deal with the rest of the establishment.

As a Head of Security, this would mean that you and one or two of you Staffers would be designated to take care of the VIP guest and whatever their (or their Protectors’s) security requests may be. If at all possible, a meeting with the Patron/Assistant/Detail Leader/Bodyguard/Protector ahead of time would be wonderful. This will not only give you an idea of what they would like, but also allows you to get a better idea of what they expect from you and your Staff.

Keep in mind that in an Executive Protection situation, the Detail Leader’s first responsibility is to his/her client. So if things go seriously bad, their first actions will be to remove their Client from the area – possibly at the expense of whoever is in their way – which could mean you and your Staff. Another reason why a meeting is important…you can find out how serious the risk to the individual may be and how to prep your establishment for their arrival.

Who’s the Boss and what are The Rules?

Setting Security concerns aside for a moment, it is important that lay some kind of ground rules for treatment and behavior of VIP guests. This is generally the area where most small clubs and venues get into trouble. Large venues in big cities generally attract High Net Worth individuals and as such there is a level of treatment and hospitality provided to these HNWs that just does not exist in most small venues. Few small venues will be dealing with individuals spending $10k or more in an evening, although it does happen.

The unspoken rule is that the more money a VIP is spending or the higher their name recognition, the more “rules” can be broken. If you have the money, you can generally do whatever you want in a Nightclub. There, I said it. Many people are disturbed or offended by this concept and understandably so. What they do not see, however, is that oftentimes an establishment is will to take the risk of bad behavior for a good cash payout. And this tends to be what happens with smaller venues. They take the chance and hope for the best. Is this always the case? No. But it is a fairly regular reality. A big spender/big name will get your club noticed. Your club gets noticed, you get Patrons. Patrons spend money. End of story…

…or is it?

I am a firm believer that the “rules” apply to everyone. The main reason is fairly simple: LIABILITY. If something “pops off” in a Club, regardless of who started the ruckus, the Club is going to have to pay. And they are usually going to have to pay A LOT. So, would it not be in the Club’s best interest to lay some basic ground rules? Absolutely.

For one, it is YOUR establishment. That means that YOU get to make the rules. What are those rules? Up to you. Some bars allow dancing on tables, others do not. Some establishments will allow a Patron to vomit on the dance floor and not be thrown out, others do not. Some might even allow VIPs to grope their Cocktail Waitresses. See where I am going here? YOU need to decide what type of behavior is expected from all of your Patrons. And these rules need to be explained to all of your Patrons in the same manner: firmly, with patience. And, in my humble opinion, these rules need to be enforced in the same way to all of you Patrons: firmly, with patience.

“DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?!?”

At some point in every Security Guards career, someone will ask them this question. When I first started out, my two favorite responses were: “I have no idea” and “Do you know who I am?” The former because it drives people crazy and the latter because it generally threw people off. Now that I have the wisdom of years behind me, my answers tend to be a bit more diplomatic, but generally get still this point across: “Unless you give me a reason to care, it doesn’t matter.”

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VIPs are used to and expect a certain level of service. And as such – especially if they are spending money in your establishment – they should receive excellent service. Unless in trying to receive this service they are extremely rude, overly insulting, or put themselves or your Staff at risk. What is extremely rude or overly insulting? Again, I will let you make that decision. And once you make that decision, figure out who is letting the VIP guests know when they’ve crossed the line. Because no matter where you wish to draw the bad behavior line, how you address the bad behavior is the most important aspect of dealing with VIPs.

Any time there is an issue with a VIP Patron, there should be a direct, immediate response. Whether a drink is spilled on them or they start throwing bottles, you must act as quickly as possible to figure out what is going on. In one of the establishments where I consult, there is a hard and fast rule that states: “All interaction with the VIP Guest MUST be go through the VIP Host/Manager.” I, for one, think this is an excellent idea. First, the VIP Host/Manager probably has a working relationship with the VIP or at the very least has spoken to them face to face. Second, a good VIP Host/Manager always has a trick or two up their sleeve for dealing with unreasonable, unruly, or just plain rude VIPs. And finally, should things go awry in the course of the VIP Host/Manager dealing with the problem VIP Guest, they are the one making the decisions as to course of action NOT the newbie Security Staffer. This in turn, helps the Security Staffer, because…”I’m sorry we have to eject you sir, but my Manager has decided that it is time for you to go.” This response is far better than, “You are outta here!”

In conclusion, know that VIPs do get treated differently, but it is up to your establishment to decide how differently they should be treated. Make some ground rules, stick to the rules, and have the proper follow-through. Ultimately, this will go along way to protecting not only your establishment and its patrons, but your reputation.

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Uniforms

I’ve covered a variety of different topics when it comes to Security Staffers: Attitude and Approach, Ejections, even Bouncer Fails. However, I realized – upon entering an entertainment venue recently and not being able to spot their Security immediately – that I haven’t touched on the reasons why your Security should be in uniform. So, here goes…

UNIFORM: u·ni·form [yoo-nuh-fawrm] noun

1. an identifying outfit or style of dress worn by the members of a given profession, organization, or rank.

You will notice that one of the first words in the definition is “identifying”. How many times have you been in an establishment (restaurant, bar, retail outlet) and been able to spot an individual who works for said establishment? I’m guessing it is around 95% of the time. Why? They were probably wearing a uniform. Some item of clothing that set them apart from the Patrons or even the other Employees. How often have you entered an establishment and not been able to spot the employee? Better (or worse) yet, have you ever been asked if you worked somewhere, because someone else couldn’t find an employee and you happened to be standing there?

Having a Uniform or Employee Dress Code is one of the most important things that you can do for your Patrons. It allows Patrons to spot your Employees quickly should they need immediate assistance. It also allows other Employees to identify and spot on another, especially in a dark, crowded room. But having your Security Staff in uniform has other benefits as well:

Uniformity/Neatness of appearance – Something about being in a uniform increases one’s sense of pride and belonging. Uniforms set individuals apart from “the masses” and makes them part of “a team”. It also makes one take pride in the “uniform” and can help the Head of Security/Manager spot any slips in Security’s dress code. Having a dress code and uniform will also increase neatness by your team, as no one wants to be the “sloppy” one on shift.*

Vibe of club - The way your Security Staff dress – even in different parts of a venue – can set the tone and vibe of your establishment. Some establishments prefer a casual look for their entire Staff, while others prefer their entire Staff be in formal wear. If it is your intention to put your Security Staff in formal wear, it is important that you look into your state and local regulations and laws. There is always a possibility that they MAY NOT be able to be in formal attire.

One trend that I have noticed is entertainment venues putting their “Front Men” (e.g. Doorman, VIP Host, Door Outs) in suits, while the rest of Security is in more casual clothes. This is only a problem if your Front Door Staff are not noticeably different from one another – meaning that they should all have a uniform “look”, even if they are all in suits. This can mean all black suits, all red ties, all blue dress shirts, SOMETHING to make it obvious that they are all part of the same team.

I should say that “uniform” can mean different things to different people. My one suggestion would be that EVERYONE on your Staff be forced to wear the same outfit with SOME TYPE OF IDENTIFIER. This can be a “Security” badge or shirt, a “Security” pin, or even a “Security” hat. But it has to be something that identifies that individual as “Security”. I have seen situations escalate very quickly in the wrong direction due to misunderstanding as to who is or is not “Security”. Having Security Staff in uniform should make it obvious who they are to the casual observer.

Until next time…

Hiring for Nightclubs, Part 1 – Experience vs. Look?

Many managers think image first when it comes to hiring Security Staff: “I want the biggest, baddest looking dudes I can get my hands on.” Hey, I understand. Security plays a big part (no pun intended) when it comes to your look. And every entertainment venue, from bar to movie theater, has a style, look, or theme. Unfortunately, most people equate large individuals in an establishment with excellent Security, and this is not necessarily the case.

“Yeah, but I need big guys!”, I can hear the club owner screaming. “I need guys that can handle their business when things get crazy.” First off, going into hiring worried about how big your staff is in case the Zombie Bar Apocalypse hits is the absolutely wrong approach. Second, size doesn’t necessarily mean skill. I have seen very large individuals hurt in very bad ways by very small individuals in very violent situations. Your first concern should always be, “How experienced is my Staff?” An experienced Security Staff will (hopefully) be able to divert trouble away from the door before it enters and know how to defuse any potentially violent situations indoors before they get out of hand.

“Yeah, but I need big guys!”, says the frazzled Bar Manager. “I had 5 fights last week!”

Really? Why were there fights? Did you let rival gang members in the door? Were your Staff texting instead of watching the Floor? Were they even manning their Posts? Were they discussing tie/shirt combinations instead of checking IDs? Or was it just a totally spontaneous night of fights breaking out for no apparent reason, with no pre-cursors or hints of violence? Somehow, I doubt that this last question is the case.

My first assumption when I see ONLY large Security Staffers in an establishment is, “This place either has a lot of fights or has rough clientele.” Why? Because really big guys tend to be really strong and have the ability to lift and move things (i.e. people fighting) out of the way…not defusing bad situations. My second assumption is that the bar is sending a signal to its Patrons: DON’T MESS AROUND IN THIS BAR OR THE BIG GUYS WILL MAKE YOU LEAVE. This is not necessarily a bad signal to send. But it can be done in a far less obvious manner. A courteous, professional, SERIOUS Staff can make people think twice about acting like fools.

Things like making eye contact with potential troublemakers, asking the right questions at the Door, turning people away for Dress Code violations, and knowing how to say “No.” in a calm, direct manner make a huge difference when it comes to avoiding trouble in a bar. An individual who comes across as not taking any b.s. will make an impression on a Patron. Every. Single. Time. Individuals who – for the lack of better terminology – are “less savory” than your desired clientele, will know who the serious Security Staffers are, and it won’t be based on their sized. It will be based on their attitude and approach. And attitude and approach are only gained through experience.

That being said, it never hurts to have some big guys on the Floor or at the Door. Why? Because someone will eventually have to do the heavy lifting, no matter how good the rest of your Staffer may be. Some Patrons are just not interested in size or experience, they’re just interested in acting like idiots. So you can hire the big guys/girls…just make sure they are experienced.

You can make your Staff look any way you want, but you can’t make them as experienced as you need them to be. Keep that in mind the next time you have to decide between the 6’8″, 325 pound linebacker with no experience and the 5’8, 155 pound ex-Marine who worked in biker bars to supplement his BJJ training. Hire for skill set and mold them to look they way you want.

Still not convinced? Look up the Gurkhas sometimes.

Until next time…

Denying Nightclub Entry

There are two basic realities when doing business in the Club world: Not everyone can get into your establishment and not everyone should be allowed into your establishment. There will always be times when someone is denied entrance to your club, for any number of reasons. The fact is that there are basic rules and regulations that need to be followed in regards to admission.

The problems usually start when your “rules” don’t fit with what is legally acceptable. Arbitrary refusal of service is illegal. However, if the Patrons’ behavior (e.g. flashing gang signs) or dress (as in wearing “gang colors”) detract from the safety, well being, or welfare of the other customers or the establishment itself, refusal of service is legitimate. (Local laws vary and as such you should know what they are and how they apply to you.)

There are situations and circumstances which are universal to establishments that serve alcohol. Here they are and some hints on how to deal with them.

1) UNDER AGE PATRONS – The legal age for consumption of alcohol in the United States is 21. Period. Unless your establishment is running an “All Ages” or “18+” night, this law never changes. So don’t let underage drinkers in. Ever. Period.

2) OVER INTOXICATION – The hardest thing for any establishment to do is strike the very precarious balance between selling alcohol and keeping their Patrons at a “safe” level of sobriety. Your Door Staff are really the first line of defense when it comes to keeping your place of business at the “safe” level. Allowing an intoxicated individual into your establishment not only increases your liability, but increases the risk of altercations and accidents. In many states, the final establishment an intoxicated individual frequented may be held liable for the actions of that individual once they leave. Car crash? Fight? They can lead back to you and your bartenders.

Sometimes it is as simple as telling an overly-intoxicated individual that they’ve had too much to drink and you cannot allow them in. But more often than not this will elicit a response of , “I am NOT drunk.”, which will lead into a circular conversation that goes nowhere. Many Doormen will tell overly-intoxicated Patrons to “come back in an hour”. It often works, as by the time an hour has passed the Patron will either have forgotten the invitation, found another place to drink, or passed out. But you do run the risk of the Patron returning.

The easiest solution I’ve found is to offer free passes or drink tickets for the next time the intoxicated Patron comes to your establishment.  This will show that you do want their business…just not tonight.  Outright rejection is never easy for anyone to take and denial of entrance  couched with an invitation to return at another time helps to ease the blow.

3) DRESS CODE - While we have covered this subject in detail in a previous post, there are a couple of things I’d like to touch on in regards to Dress Code. First off, besides intoxicated Patrons, individuals who do not pass Dress Code are going to be the majority of the rejections at your Front Door. And, most of these individuals will take offense when told that they will not be let in based on how they are dressed. Often, “not passing dress code” is taken to mean that the individual is sloppy or low-class. In reality, this is far from the truth. Dress Codes are implemented to give clubs a look, draw a specific clientele, or for special events. Dress Code can be ugly Xmas sweaters for a party, button down shirts and dress pants on Friday nights, or vests and riding boots in a motorcycle bar. The key is to let your Patrons know what the appropriate Dress is before they wait in line.

Always post your dress code. On your website, on the front door, at the entrance to any lines. It should list exactly what items of clothing are prohibited. Ultimately, the goal is to educate your Patrons so they know what to expect when they are preparing for a night in your establishment. In the same vein, your Doormen should know to be polite and apologetic when denying entrance for Dress Code. Explaining to Patrons why they cannot enter is always better than an outright rejection. Have your Door Staff prepared to answer all questions regarding Dress Code with an explanation.

“Why dress shirts and pants?” – We run a promotion every Saturday we call ‘Business Casual’. It’s like a costume party, but with stylish clothes. But we relax the Dress Code on Fridays if you’d like to come back. (If your dress code is always business casual, you can state that the look for the club is “upscale”)

“Why no open-toed shoes?” – We don’t want to risk anyone cutting their feet should their be broken glass on the floor. We want you to be safe.

“Why no athletic jerseys?” – Unfortunately, we’ve had some problems with rival teams’ fans starting altercations. On Sundays we allow jerseys during games.

Again, educating the customer will let them know what is or is not allowed. With enough time and “education” most people will know what the Dress Code is for your establishment.

4)  UNRULY CUSTOMERS - The most difficult and often most dangerous Patrons to deal with are those who are acting unruly before they even enter. Being rude to others in line, pushing or shoving their friends (or other Patrons), skipping in line, or just plain being abrasive, there is a good chance that the behavior of these Patrons will deteriorate once they enter and start drinking (or drink more than they already have). It is EXTREMELY important that when dealing with these individuals your Door Staff be patient and always have back-up.

While there is no easy way to turn these Patrons away, one approach that works well is for the Door Staff to “deflect” the blame. The Doorman can state that his boss “…believes that your group is too intoxicated to be let in.” Again, when preceded with an apology, “I’m sorry but…”, it is easy for the Staffer to play the “I’m just following orders” card. This technique works even better if the group sees an individual (it can even be another Staffer) speaking to the Doorman just prior to their arriving at the Front Door. The “manager” can then step inside, out of the group’s eyesight and “unavailable” to talk.

Is this approach sneaky? Yes. But if applied by a patient and apologetic Door Staffer, it can work wonders.

Remember, the key to Denial of Entry is to educate the Patron. Not condescend, not insult, not anger, but EDUCATE. Let them know WHY they can’t come in and how much you want for them to return another time. Heck, you’ll even buy them a drink!

Until next time…

End of Night Checklist…

About 30 minutes before closing time, you should start to notice a familiar pattern in any Bar or Nightclub. No, I’m not talking about desperate men or women looking for that last chance at “love”. I’m talking about Security Staffers prepping their areas for Last Call and Closing. If you’ve seen a well-trained Staff closing, they do it with almost military precision. Chances are they have been either trained on how to close, have a checklist, or both.

In yet another part of our series on Paperwork, we dissect the Closing Checklist and its various components.

First off, I find that a Closing Checklist is actually more important than one for Opening (which will be covered soon, promise). At the end of a long night of work, it is very easy to get lax and forget about what you need to do to wrap things up and get home. You’ve been on your feet for hours, dealing with all kinds of ridiculousity (yeah, that’s a real word…kind of…not really), and want nothing more than to herd the Patrons out and climb in bed. But realistically, this last 30-60 minutes is THE most important part of your night. People are at their most intoxicated and unpredictable, so wouldn’t it behoove you to be the most on top of your game?

The Closing Checklist will obviously vary from Bar to Nightclub to Lounge to Restaurant, but these basics should cover most of what you need:

MUSIC OFF – Yes, there is actually time that the music (whether DJ or in-house stereo) needs to be turned off. And the DJ won’t do it on their own, they need to be reminded. Find out what Noise Abatement regulations exist in your town, put the time the music needs to be OFF at the top of your list, and ENFORCE it. No one will be happy about it, but then again at the end of the night , is anyone ever happy with any decision you make regarding their fun?

CLEAR STANCHIONS – This can vary depending on the establishment. Many places of business need to get the sidewalks as clear as possible before letting out 100-500 Patrons. Moving stanchions can help to give the crowd room to move and allow your staffers to direct traffic. It also removes the possibility that stanchions will be used as weapons should a fight break out. Some establishments prefer to keep stanchions in place to guide traffic. Unless you have an individual manning the stanchions and ready collapse them instantly, I personally do not recommend this approach.

CLEAR CLUB INTERIOR – Before Last Call is announced, your Staffers should already be in place ready to begin The Push. Placing this item on the checklist will assure that it gets done.

CLEAR FRONT SIDEWALK/ALLEY/WALKWAY – Wherever there is an exit from your establishment, you should have Staffers stationed to keep the Patrons moving. Clearing this area also includes picking up any floor/doormats and garbage that might impede or interfere with flow of Patrons from inside your place of business.

RETURN ALL FURNITURE – I had an experience once where a Staffer left all of the Patio Chairs in an alley. All night. Until the next day. In plain sight. While it may seem obvious, you should be platooning people out to return all furniture to its proper place.

RETURN RADIOS AND EARPIECES – Make sure the your Staff is returning their gear, unless they own it!

LOCK FRONT DOOR – It is always amazing to me how often this is overlooked. LOCK. THE. DOORS. It takes 2 seconds and can save you from liability and theft.

COMPLETE INCIDENT REPORTS – Make sure your Head of Security completes and files Incident Reports before he or she goes home. They should be completed at the time of an Incident, but sometimes things get hectic and left by the wayside. Do it at the end of the night, when events are still fresh in your mind.

CLOCK OUT – Obvious? Not always. People are tired, remember? Remind your Staff.

Based on the size of your business, this list can be shortened or lengthened to cover all of your bases. Regardless of the length of the list, I guarantee that having one will make sure that the necessary work gets done. I would also recommend that the Head of Security or Doorman is in charge of the Checklist as their responsibilities should be shifting towards the managerial at this point of the night.

Until next time…

Post-Work Debriefing

The bar has been cleared, the tables put away, the equipment stowed. Time to go home, right?

Not so fast…

Regardless of how tired you are, there is one item of business that should be taken care of: The Post-Work Debriefing. This is an important part of the night from both a personal and professional standpoint. On a personal level, you want to make sure that you and your Security Staff are doing well. On a professional level, you want to make sure that your Security Staffers are happy. How do find out if they are doing well and are happy? Ask.

The Head of Security should always run the Post-Work Debrief. This way, all information is relayed directly, not second or third hand. It is not absolutely necessary for the Manager to be involved, as he/she should be meeting with the H.O.S. after the Post-work Debrief anyway.

TOPICS OF DISCUSSION:

  • EQUIPMENT – Anything broken, faulty, or gone missing? This is the time to report the problem and take note. Too often broken radios are placed back into their chargers without any notification. Need batteries/stanchions/clickers? Speak up!
  • INCIDENTS – Though ALL incidents should be reported as they occur, minor incidents (doors left open, Staff disputes, Law Enforcement chats) are often forgotten UNLESS you talk about them the same night. Make sure to ask your crew if they had any incidents and talk about them. If necessary, incident reports can be written up at this time. On numerous occasions I have asked how the night went and been deluged by incidents that no one had bothered to mention.
  • PERFORMANCE CONCERNS – The Head of Security should use some of this time to point out any issues or concerns regarding the Staff in general. Are people moving from their posts without notification? Incorrect Radio protocol? Bring it up and hash it out.
  • UPCOMING EVENTS – Remind the crew of any and all upcoming events, whether the next night, next week, or next month. It helps to plant a seed in their head and preps them for what is to come. No one likes to show up to work and be surprised with the news that the club is booked for a group of MMA fighters with an open bar, a fraternity social, or ten tables of bachelorette parties.
  • STAFFING ISSUES – If the Security Staff is having problems with non-Security Staff employees, this is the time to air those grievances. Having problems with the Promoter? Bartenders allowing their friends to stay after Last Call? Talk about it. An informed H.O.S. can pass this information on to the Manager. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO GRIPE ABOUT OTHER MEMBERS OF YOUR SECURITY STAFF. Any intra-Security Staff concerns should be voiced directly to the H.O.S. separate from other workers.

These meetings serve as a good outlet for your Security Staff. They bring issues to light and often elicit remarks or suggestions that might not normally be conveyed. It generates conversation and communication, two things that are key to running a tight ship. The more you and your co-workers talk about the work environment and its issues, the better the chances that these issues will be taken care of in a prompt manner.

Until next time…

Drugs and Alcohol…

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard a few stories about drunk Bar Staff. Word spreads when you know a lot of people in a small town who work in the Industry. And if they were either drinking during shifts or acting like fools while out on the town, sooner or later someone will hear about it. But, we are dealing with adults here, and what they do in their off-time is up to them. However, what they do during work can be problematic…and costly.

Let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? If you work in the Bar and Nightclub Industry, at some point you will have an encounter with Drugs and Alcohol. Yes, I know, alcohol is served in a Bar. But that is not what I mean. I mean your fellow employees and Patrons using Drugs and Alcohol. There, I said it. Your co-workers could be drunk or high. And so could your Patrons. I can already hear the denials, “None of my Staff drinks!” or “We don’t allow drugs in our establishment!”, and to some extent I believe you. Well, maybe I believe about 1/4 of you.

The Bar and Nightclub environment breeds, sustains, and to some degree encourages substance abuse. Whether it is trying to get Patrons to buy more drinks (2 for 1 specials, anyone?), having the Bartenders be social (“Let’s all do shots!”), or needing a little extra energy to get through that Double Shift and Inventory (“We’ll do a tiny line of coke. No one will know.’), it happens! So, instead of working ourselves into a lather and vehemently denying that it occurs while 3 Patrons come out of the bathroom with powder rings around their noses and your bartender is slurrin’ and stumblin’, let’s look at the dangers from a  liability standpoint.

Use of Drugs and Alcohol by Security Staffers during a shift is incredibly negligent. Should anything happen during your shift, while you are drunk, not only can the Bar/Nightclub be sued, but you can as well. Why? The shortened legal definition of negligence is: “The failure to exercise that degree of care that…the law requires for the protection of other persons…that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care.” In other words, if someone in your establishment is hurt because you fail to notice a problem or issue, IT IS YOUR FAULT. They may have been acting stupid, but if you didn’t try to stop them or failed to stopped them, it’s on you. If Aunt Sally tries to dance on the bar and falls, breaking her arm because you were too buzzed to notice and stop her…you do the math. When the EMTs show up (probably with Law Enforcement in tow) and they smell alcohol on your Security Staffers’ breath? No bueno.

Any individual working Security under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an idiot. Plain and simple. At the most basic level, alcohol impairs your judgment and coordination. If your job is to consistently use your best judgment (“Does this person pose a threat?”) and possibly need to have excellent coordination (i.e. catching the drunk guy), why would you want to do the job drunk or high? I’ve heard the usual excuses, “It makes me more social/relaxes me/makes the time pass.” and while you might think these things, you are fooling yourself. Think about it this way: when you see a slightly intoxicated Patron, your first reaction is probably to keep an eye on them and see how they progress. Now what if that Patron was you…and you were trying to do a job? Again, no bueno.

We live in a litigious world. Why not take every step possible to shield yourself from litigation? If you are in the courtroom and the question, “Were you drinking during your shift?” comes up, you better be darn sure the answer is “No.” Some of you might say, “But drinking and drugs go with the territory!” Wrong. It only goes with the territory if you allow it to. I’m sure those of you who are regular readers and work in Bars know of at least one establishment that has been closed due to drug sales. Or have known a Staffer to be arrested for DUI after their shift. Why take the chance and have it be your establishment or Staffer? Sooner or later the laws of statistics WILL catch up to you.

SOLUTIONS

The easiest solution for a Manager/Owner is to make a set of Bar Rules. They can be as simple as “No drinking on shift!” or as extreme as “No off-duty patronage of the bar.” Whatever you decide to make the rule, you must stick by it, and enforce it. With drinking, I generally recommend a warning (along with being sent home for the night) for the first offense and termination if the act is repeated. Drugs are automatic termination. Period. You have to let the Staff know that you are serious about your approach. And yes, that means that you can’t drink while working either!

Another option is to write a Drug and  Alcohol Policy into your employee manual. A quick Google Search (see how easy I make things for you?) will give you a plethora of options. At the bottom of each page of your Drug and Alcohol Policy, you should have a line for your employees to sign stating that they understand the Policy and repercussions for breaking it.

Finally, you MUST enforce your rules. Let me repeat that: YOU MUST ENFORCE YOUR RULES!!! It is pointless to come up with rules and policies if they are never enacted. Not to mention that you will find yourself in a legal mess if you have a stated set of policies and you are found to be violating them. If you are the boss, act like the boss. If you are a humble worker bee, make sure your fellow employees are keeping it together. If they are not, let someone know. It could end up saving your job.

Until next time…

“I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up!”…or Nightclub Incidents and How to Record and Report Them

Yep, that’s right, the Paperwork Monster strikes again. Don’t run and hide from it, be a hero and face it down!

SIT DOWN, DON’T FALL DOWN…

For some reason, when people see someone else fall down, they laugh. Some comedians have made entire careers out of prat falls. But in the really world things like falls and accidents can take a real physical and financial toll. In the Nightclub environment, slips, falls, and injuries are almost unavoidable. Drinks get spilled and make the Dance Floor slippery. People get drunk and try to negotiate stairs. Intoxicated individuals try to stand on the bar and fall off. These things happen and when they do, you should be prepared to deal with the repercussions that come after the fact…usually in the form of a lawsuit.

WHAT IS AN INCIDENT?

For Nightclubs and Bars, Incidents can be defined many ways. These are considered Incidents because they are actual witnessed events, usually with some form of evidence:

ANY INJURY TO A PATRON – A glass cut, slipping and falling, or twisting an ankle on the stairs, for example.

ANY PHYSICAL ALTERCATION RESULTING IN INJURY TO PATRON(S) AND/OR STAFF – Basically, any injuries sustained during a fight.

ANY THREAT OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE MADE TO PATRON(S) AND/OR STAFF – For example, if one Patron turns to another (or a bartender) and says, “I’m going to beat you to a pulp!”

ANY THREAT OF LITIGATION MADE TO PATRON(S) AND/OR STAFF – If a Patron says, “I’m going to sue you!”

ANY PROPERTY DAMAGE CAUSED BY PATRON – If a Patron throws a bottle at a mirror and breaks it or kicks down a bathroom door.

Make a copy of this list. Post it somewhere visible. And make sure that your Staff know what is and is not considered an Incident. There is nothing worse than a Staffer not taking notes on an Incident when they should be! And when in doubt file an Incident Report.

INCIDENT PROTOCOL

Should one of the Incidents listed above occur in your establishment, quick action is necessary. Your protocol may vary from what we have listed, but your entire Staff should be taught what to do regardless of the steps or order in which you wish to take them.

1) Have one of your Staffers notify the Head of Security or Manager IMMEDIATELY. Do this slowly and calmly. If it is a serious Incident, the more patient and level-headed you are in dealing with it, the better off you will be. Tell them what the problem is and what, if any, steps you have taken.

2) The Head of Security/Manager should assess the situation and make a decision as to course of action (if none has been taken). This may entail contacting Law Enforcement in case of an altercation or calling for Medical Assistance in case of Injury. The Head of Security/Manager should take as objective a view as possible of the Incident. This means not taking sides or laying blame.

3) Make an attempt to contact the Patron(s) involved in the Incident or any Witnesses to the Incident. Try to gather their contact information and, if possible, gather any information, including a brief Witness report. If a Patron has witnessed a fight, ask them what happened. If someone threatened them, ask them for a description of the person doing the threatening.

When possible, try to make any questioning brief and to the point and do it with a calm demeanor. Individuals involved in altercations may be agitated. Let them calm down before trying to ascertain what happened. The more information you can gather, the better off you will be when you take the next step…

INCIDENT REPORTS

EVERY BAR NEEDS AN INCIDENT REPORT FORM!!!! Regardless of the size of your facility or type of crowd, an Incident Report form is necessary. We are trying to create a paper trail so that in case of litigation, you will have something to back up your side of the argument.

Don’t have an Incident Report Form? Well, try a Google Search. Easy, no?

The Incident Report Form should contain (at a minimum):

A place of Witness Information

Date/Time/Place of Incident

Staff Involved

Description of Incident

Again, this is the paper trail that will help you in case of some type of civil suit. Having even a minimal amount of documentation is better than having nothing at all. Train your Security Staffers in how to identify Incidents and how to fill out the proper Paperwork.You may not always be around and someone needs to know what to do in case a problem arises!

Until next time…

Open Up!

For many people who hold jobs, starting the work day is pretty straight forward: walk into the office with a cup of coffee, start up the computer, read some emails, and kill time until the boss catches you or you actually have to start work. Guess what? Many people who work security in nightclubs and bars often take the same approach: walk in the door with your 5 hour energy drink, set-up some stanchions, and kill time until the boss catches you or a customer shows up.

Honestly, it is easy to see why security staffers often feel that they don’t need to do much upon arrival. They figure that since the bar manager has been in the establishment for at least a few hours, the bar is set up, music is going, and they know when the first rush of clients is going to arrive, why should they do any work?

Uhm, because it’s your job.

And the better prepared you are to do your job, the better off both you and your place of business will be. I hate to burst your laziness bubble, but I guarantee that there is plenty for you to do prior to starting your shift or opening.

1) Pre-Departure – Yeah, you should probably be ready for work before you leave the house. And part of that is getting yourself in the right mental state. Think about what day it is and what type of crowd you are expecting (depending on the day). Is it Thursday Night College Night or is it Mellow Jazz Lounge Sunday? You have to be paying attention either way but chances are that Mellow Jazz Lounge Sunday will be a bit less stressful and as such will allow you to work in a state of more “relaxed awareness”.

What are you wearing? Are your clothes clean? Shoes look decent? Do you have all of your gear? Gel insoles? Flashlight (how are the batteries)? Breath mints? Cell phone? Earpiece? Nothing sucks more than showing up missing equipment or needing to drive back home to grab something.

2) Arrival and Greetings – You should be arriving 10-15 minutes early, dressed, well groomed, and ready to go. Do you look like you just rolled out of bed? Take a minute or two at the car (or hey, here’s and idea: before you leave the house) to make sure you look presentable. Believe it or not, looking the part will lead to acting the part. And acting the part will lead to you actually doing your job.

Say hello to the bar/nightclub/lounge staff that you encounter on the way to the equipment room or office. It will give you an idea of who is working and they’ll know that another piece of the security pie has arrived.

3) Gear up – Head to the equipment room or office and get your radio or any other gear that your workplace provides. Put it on and test it before you leave the room! Nothing looks more unprofessional than an employee testing equipment in front of a bunch of Patrons.

4) Find your Head of Security/Manager/Supervisor – Ask them, “Are there any special events booked or guests that will be arriving during the night? What post will I be manning? Any special orders for the night? Guest lists? Special guest requests?” You’d be surprised at how often a manager will forget to tell you things. By asking, you not only help to jog their memory, but get yourself even more mentally prepared for the night to come. The last thing you want to hear at 10:15 is “Oh yeah, at 10:20 we have a party of 30 coming in.” Ask questions, it never hurts.

5) Prep the establishment – If you are the first one on, here is a good checklist to follow:

Doors – Are all exit doors secure and in working order? That means do they open and close.

Restrooms – Do the doors work? Toilets flush? Sinks work? Many times YOU are the one that will have to deal with restroom issues. It makes sense to check them ahead of time and save yourself some possible aggravation.

Hallways,Stairs, and Walkways – Are they free of debris/trashcans/furniture? Make sure people can get around without climbing over or around things.

Front Door Check – If you are working the Front, do you have everything you will need? Make sure you have stanchions, ID books, count clickers, Nightly Report binders, and anything else your establishment uses at the Front Door.

Set-up – Any stanchions, tables, cash registers, ropes, chairs, etc. that you will use during the course of the evening. Have these prepped and ready BEFORE the crowds arrive. Otherwise you will have a logistical nightmare on your hands.

Briefing – Get together with the rest of the security team and your Head of Security or Manager and find out what else is going on that evening. This not only gets everyone on the same page, but finalizes your prep.

Now…you’re mentally prepared, your equipment is set, and you can really start your night. Take a deep breath and get to it!

Until next time…