Dress To Impress…

Your bar, nightclub, restaurant, or lounge needs a Dress Code. Period.

I could just leave it at that and have you figure it out on your own, but that’s not  why I’m here. I’m here to explain the why’s and how’s of the industry, right? So let’s take a look at Dress Code and its Why’s and How’s.

WHY DO I NEED A DRESS CODE?

1) Dress Code dictates Environment – The type of club/bar/lounge/restaurant you are or want to be is just as dependent on your Dress Code as it is pricing and decor . When a Patron enters the door, they know right away the kind of environment they are patronizing, based on how people are dressed. If you were to enter an establishment with 25 televisions showing team sports, yet everyone was in a suit and you’d probably realize, “Hey, I’m in an upscale Sports Bar”.  What kind of environment do you want? Part of creating that environment is dictating a Dress Code.

2) Dress code decides Clientele – If you allow people into your establishment wearing whatever they want, anyone who wants can enter the door. Conversely, by dictating what people must wear, not everyone will come to your establishment. You must decide, “Who do I want as my Patrons?” College kids? Bikers? Elderly Couples? Each of these groups dresses in specific ways and will either not want to be told what to wear (possibly excluding them from your establishment) or will want to wear specific clothing (possibly making them enthusiastic about coming to your establishment). Every social group in every part of the world has its own idea of fashion and style. It is up to you as the establishment’s Owner to dictate your “style”. By dictating your Dress Code, you dictate your clientele.

3) Dress Code defines Attitude – People are far less inclined to get into fights while wearing an Armani suit or Manolo Blahnik shoes. First off, they don’t want to ruin their nice clothes. Second, when people are dressed nicely, they take pride in their style and fashion sense. I call it the “Damn, I Look Good!” Effect. People that are feeling and looking good are less likely to want to act bad. It is a rare occurrence when nicely dressed individuals start bar brawls. So why not run an establishment the nicely dressed like to frequent? Heck you might want to open a place with no dress code, where everyone wears sweatpants and tank tops. Good for you! Just remember, more people are willing to dress UP to spend money than dress DOWN and spend money.

WHERE TO START

If you want a classy, upscale establishment, your Dress Code should be classy and upscale. If you don’t care who walks in the door, don’t bother with Dress Code. IF you don’t want to be a biker bar, hip hop club, or cater to hipsters…make your Dress Code patron-specific. No bandanas might take care of some bikers or maybe no motorcycle boots. No athletic jerseys will cut back on some hip hoppers and no skinny jeans will remove hipsters from the equation.

Some possible options:

No baggy or sagging pants

No oversized shirts

No clothing with athletic team logos

No sandals/flip flops on men

No tank tops or undershirts

No shorts

There are tons of variations, even within this grouping. You may allow shorts, but only with collared shirts and shoes. Or you may allow team clothing during sporting events. No matter what, always keep in mind that you (the Owner/Manager) are the one making the decisions. Don’t let your customers dictate the Dress Code if you want something different. You may receive complaints, but in the long run it will play out in your favor.

HOW DO I IMPLEMENT A DRESS CODE?

Surprisingly, many Owners have a difficult time with this. Some owners consider enforcing or implementing a Dress Code as being bad for business. You did just read the “Why” portion, right? While implementing a Dress Code might cut out some of your intended Patronage, it will also INCREASE the number of people coming to visit your establishment because they want to look good AND YOUR BAR IS JUST THE PLACE TO DO IT. As opposed to the Dive Bar down the street where the clothes on your back don’t matter.

1) What Is It? – What do you want the Dress Code to be? Coat and tie for men? No sneakers? No torn jeans? Sit with your Management Team (or Head of Security) and figure out what you want people to wear. Are you trying to upscale your establishment? That might mean requiring “stylish” attire. Do you run a bar on the beach? Asking people to wear collared shirts might not be the best idea. Throw ideas around and see what works. Remember, you can always change it! What is important is that you point some thought into it and test it out.

2) Write It Down – Yeah, that’s right, put it on paper. And keep that paper by the Entry Door. Better yet, post  it where it is VISIBLE TO ENTERING PATRONS. That way, if anyone asks or complains, your Doorman can point to the sign and say, “Sorry Sir/Ma’am, but it’s company policy that our Patrons dress a certain way for admitttance.” It is also a good idea to post the Dress Code to your website and have it explained (briefly) on any answering machine messages.

3) Enforce It – This is another area where Doormen/Owners/Managers have problems. Once you set a Dress Code, stick to it. That means NOT ALLOWING SOMEONE IN THE DOOR WHO ISN’T DRESS CODE COMPLIANT.  PERIOD. No exceptions. They can go home and change or come back another night. It isn’t The End of The World. I promise. If your Roamers are circulating and they see a Patron wearing a baseball cap when the Dress Code says, “No Baseball Caps”, tell them to take it off. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but let them know they are in violation of Dress Code. Enforce the Dress Code and continue to Enforce the Dress Code. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your Patrons will comply. The Patrons that don’t comply are probably not who you want around anyway.

4) What To Wear and When – You may own an establishment that runs different promotions on different nights of the week. Shift your Dress Code accordingly. What works on College Night, may not on Hip Hop Night and vice-versa. Make sure your Door Staff know what the Dress Code variances are and correctly enforce them!

One of the things that makes Dress Code implementation so great is that it works on a semi-conscious level. People don’t even realize that they are being asked to dress a certain way in order to elicit (or restrain) certain types of behavior or attitudes. Want a raging party? Have people dress in costume. Quiet, jazzy night in order? Coats and ties for gentlemen, dresses for ladies. Test your Dress Code and see where and when you receive complaints and what they are. Then adjust accordingly!

Until next time…

Intro to Paperwork…

Nothing gets people more excited than the word “Paperwork”. And in spite of its inherent thrill factor and the dangers of getting too excited about it…Paperwork must be done.

WHY DO I NEED PAPERWORK?

At the end of a busy night, the last thing you want to do is sit down and file reports or fill out a schedule. Nobody wants to do Paperwork. Nobody. It is time consuming, mind-numbing, and often times confusing.  So why do it at all? The most basic reason is liability coverage. If something goes wrong, is supposedly overlooked, or is  thought to be ignored, a good paper trail can save your butt in legal proceedings. Alternately, if someone needs information or is contesting your nightclub’s polices, a piece of paper elucidating your position can be extremely helpful. Any time a Patron, Client, Partner, or Owner asks for proof of your particular stance on something, being able to produce said proof in a printed form is of paramount importance.

Let’s look at the areas in which Paperwork comes in handy:

Employee Policies

Patron Policies

Hiring and Interviews

Daily Checklists and Reports

Scheduling

Incidents

Each of these areas NEEDS Paperwork in order for you to do your job more efficiently, keep track of your employees, and let your customers know how you do business. A well-kept filing system with solid Paperwork can save you the trouble of having to rely on your memory or other people’s second-hand knowledge of events. Creating Paperwork also gives your Management Team the opportunity to actually sit down and discuss what you want your Policies and Procedures to be and how to go about delineating them. As a result, you may even learn a little something about your own business!

I will try to make the learning process easier for you by breaking the Paperwork Posts into small, easy to digest segments, each of which will cover a specific area: Forms, Reports, Checklists, etc. This will allow you to decide what Paperwork you need, how to compose it, and ultimately, how to use it.

So, be forewarned, Paperwork is coming and there is nothing you can do to escape!

Until next time….

Eject! Eject! Eject!

Most people in nightclub settings view “ejections” as violent acts: a group of bouncers literally tossing someone into the alley or a Patron being dragged, kicking and screaming, out the front door. In actuality, 95% of all ejections are quite peaceful, with the “ejectee” willingly exiting the establishment under their own power. Whether or not the Patron departs on their  own or with the assistance of the Security Staff is dependent on a variety of factors. And while your establishment wants to avoid “physical” ejections if at all possible, they are sometimes unavoidable.

The first thing everyone should know is that an “Ejection” refers to any situation in which a Patron leaves the club upon a request by Security Staff. For those working in the state of California it is helpful to refer to  Section 602.1A of the CA Penal Code: You—as Security Staff—are considered an agent of a business, and when a person is instructed to leave the premises and refuses, that person is guilty of a misdemeanor.  IF the person refuses to leave, an agent of a business can use reasonable and necessary force to remove them if absolutely necessary.  Remember, “reasonable and necessary” equals the amount of force needed to overcome resistance according to a person’s physical condition, build and perceived threat.

Ejecting Non-Violent Patrons – Most Non-Violent Patron ejections are due to over-intoxication or unsuitable behavior. And, in most of these cases, it is merely a matter of asking the Patron in question to leave. Surprisingly enough, these Patrons will often leave on their own, no questions asked. However, there are occasions in which you must either take away the Patron’s reason for staying or give them a reason to leave. How do you give them a reason to leave?

  1. Most over-intoxicated Patrons will have been cut-off from being served. Remember, that if they have not, you have the power to request a cut-off from the Bartender. As soon as a Patron is considered too intoxicated to be served, it is an indication that they are too intoxicated to remain on the premises (this is for their safety as well as to prevent you as an establishment from being charged with “over-serving”). Cutting off a Patron’s supply of alcohol is usually enough of a deterrent to cause the Patron to leave of their own accord.
  2. Should the Patron not wish to leave on their own, it is up to Security to inform them that they must leave. This can be accomplished by merely asking them to leave or letting them know that they are too intoxicated to remain on the premises. One way to get an intoxicated patron out the door is to ask for their ID, and have them follow you outside. Once outside, they are then informed that they cannot return to the club that evening due to over-intoxication. Yes, it’s tricky, and that’s the whole point. You have avoided conflict within the bar and moved them to a location where you can have a conversation without yelling and “hand off” the Patron to your outside Security.
  3. ALWAYS try and remain as polite as possible to over-intoxicated Patrons. It is often embarrassing or humiliating for them to be asked to leave, so reassurance, patience, and a calm demeanor on your part will help ease them out the door. This is not easy, especially if an individual is argumentative, combative, or so drunk that they can’t form a sentence. Short sentences, body language, and hand gestures can often help to give the intoxicated Patron an idea of what is going on.

 

 

Ejecting Violent Patrons – Some Patrons may react negatively to being asked to leave and this can take the form of physical violence or resistance. If this is the case, try to bring the Patron to the nearest exit. You DO NOT want to move a struggling individual through a crowded bar. There are too many things that can go wrong and you want your ejections to be a quick, painless, and non-attention grabbing as possible.

Avoid restraint holds as much as possible. Individuals under the influence of intoxicants often have high pain thresholds, and wristlock, armbars, and other submissions can lead to broken limbs or other injury. Tight “bear hugs” are often a good way of gaining control of a violent Patron. Another good way to move an individual is to lift them from behind, by their belt or pants. This creates an uncomfortable “wedgie” (think back to Junior High School), brings them to their toes, and allows you to propel them forward. If using this technique, place your other hand on one of their shoulders to prevent them from turning or falling forward, and walk FAST, in the direction of the nearest exit..

  1. If possible, alert the Security Staff member working the nearest exit that you are arriving with an ejection, so that they may clear a path.
  2. Once the Patron is ejected, the Staff members doing the ejecting should immediately re-enter the club. This will keep the Patron from wanting to continue to instigate trouble with the Staff who “kicked him out”.
  3. Should it be necessary to subdue or restrain a Patron until the arrival of Law Enforcement, do your best to clear an area to keep other Patrons clear of any trouble. (Remember “The Buddy System”?)

In almost any case, calm dialogue with customer service in mind will alleviate any need for physicality. Any Patron who aggressively rejects a reasonable request to behave should be asked to leave. They can be told that if they do not leave they will be considered to be trespassing. You will be forced to call the police and once Law Enforcement arrives, it is your nightclub’s policy to have trespassers arrested. It’s amazing how quickly most people will leave when you state this fact.

As always, communication is the key to any successful ejection. A constant flow of communication between Staff and Patron, Patron and Staff, and Staff and Staff.

Notification – ALWAYS notify the Door Outs, VIP Host, and ID Check of any ejections. This will allow them to hold the door (to prevent bottle-necking), clear the entry/exit (in case you are actually carrying someone out), call Law Enforcement (should you be busy with a trouble Patron), and most important: be aware that you are heading in their direction. Once an ejection is complete, it is imperative that those working the Entry know who was ejected and why. Who, so that they can prevent said individual from re-entering that same night. And Why, so that they can answer any questions by either the Patron or Law Enforcement.

Remember, just because someone is a little loud, a little drunk, or a little annoying doesn’t mean they need to be ejected. Treat each incident on a case by case basis, and talk with your Staff at the conclusion of each ejection. That way you can go over what went wrong or preferably…what went RIGHT.

Until next time…

Closing Time….

“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here…”

Many of us have said it, some of us have heard it, and if you work in Nightclub Security, you’ve definitely felt it. There comes a point in the evening when people just need to GET. THE. HELL. OUT. And you just want to GET. THE. HELL. HOME. Sorry, no such luck. As a matter of fact, your job is the most dangerous and probably the busiest during the last 1 1/2 hours of the night. Let’s break it down…

MAGIC HOUR

No matter what type of nighttime entertainment establishment you  employs you, people get silly, stupid, and dangerous during the hour before last call. “Magic Hour” is when the most fights break out (usually because people are being silly and stupid), the most injuries occur, and the most intoxication sinks in. People have had all night to wind up to this last hour of craziness. This is when you need to be most alert and on top of your game, in spite of the fact that you have been going strong for the past few hours and could really use a break.

1) Observe the crowd – Now is the time to hone in on those folks who have been acting questionable. Slightly tipsy will have by this point become sloshed. Watch your intoxicated Patrons, and if possible, get  them out the door and into a cab preferably with some friends BEFORE Last Call and the push for the door. Keep an eye out for groups of men. Are they eyeballing the drunk females? Are they throwing the stink eye at other male Patrons? Now is the time to intervene. Let them know that they are being watched, either by making it blatantly obvious (standing right next to them) or by doing it in a subtle way (nodding and smiling). They will be less inclined to act like fools if they know they are being observed.

2) Staging- Get your Staff ready for the exodus towards the Exit. Position your staffers at posts that will help move traffic flow. Make sure they all have flashlights at the ready. Move your stanchions off the sidewalk and pick up any obstacles that might impede foot traffic as people try to exit.

3) Compartmentalize – If there are parts of the establishment that are empty, close them to Patrons NOW. Place a Staffer at the entrance to these areas and don’t admit anyone else. If the Patio is empty, keep it that way.

4) Give Patrons advance warning – If you are working in a smaller or quiet venue, a Staffer can circulate and let Patrons know that Last Call is approaching. Tell them how much time they have left and when you’ll have to take bottles and glasses.

LAST CALL

1) Once Last Call is announced, make sure that any Patrons not within earshot of the announcement are advised. Walk out to the Patio, Deck, and VIP lounge and make another announcement. Let people know that they have X amount of minutes before you will have to take their drinks

2) Outside Staffing – Your Doorman and Door Outs should have the sidewalk cleared and ready for exiting Patrons. It is a good idea to have a trashcan at the ready just inside the Exit Door for people to toss their bottles.

THE PUSH

At the decided upon time (usually 15 minutes before the hour) it is time to start moving people to the Exit Door. First of all, there should be a single Exit Door. Patrons should only be able to leave your establishment one way except for cases of emergency. This makes it easier for your Staff to keep an eye on exits and to guide people in one direction….OUT.

1) Narrowing the Chute – Much like cattle, intoxicated Patrons will follow the crowd. You want to make it as difficult as possible for people to back track or divert from their Exit. If you have a multiple floor establishment, start at the Top Floor and close down sequentially (3rd, 2nd, 1st floor). If your club has multiple rooms, close the outer rooms until you only have one room to work with.

2) Push from the Back – Form a line of Staffers and start edging people towards the Exit Door. You can make announcements as you do so: “Night’s over folks, thanks for coming in.” “Alright people, let’s move.” or the good old, “Time to leave, people!” As always, make sure your announcement matches the environment of your club, yeah? If necessary, use your flashlights to guide people towards the Exit.

3) Watch for bottles and glasses – People WILL try to sneak drinks out. Post someone at the Exit Door by the trashcan to intercept them. Watch for hands tucked into jackets, under shirts or behind hand bags. Take bottles and glasses and throw them away or stack them

THE SIDEWALK

1) Have AT LEAST 2 Staffers on the Sidewalk to deal with the exodus. If possible to physically “funnel” Patrons to either side of the entrance (through the use of stanchions), great. If not, have the Staffers point in the direction they wish the crowd to move. Gentle encouragement is recommended as well. “Thanks for coming folks, I need you to keep the doorway clear. Move to the side please.” Flashlights work wonders for moving people out of the way. No one likes a flashlight shining in their eyes.

2) Shift Staffers – Once your various rooms in the establishment are cleared, move spare Staff onto the street to help with traffic flow. But don’t move everyone! Make sure you have enough left to keep an eye out for interior stragglers.

CLOSE HOUSE

1) Stragglers – Double check all of your rooms, stairwells, and bathrooms. NO ONE is allowed in the bar after The Push. No girlfriends, boyfriends, parents, roommates. They can wait outside. Severely intoxicated Patrons should be dealt with by calling them a cab or calling Law Enforcement.

2) Make sure that money is NOT being counted out in the open. It should be done in a room with a lockable door. If there is no access to an office and IF all the doors in your club are locked, then pick a corner, out of sight, to count the cash. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN A STRAGGLER OR BAD GUY WILL WALK IN THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR. Don’t put your Staff at risk.

DEBRIEF AND OUT

1) Debrief – Have your Head of Security gather your Staff and talk about the night: any problems or issues, equipment malfunctions, ideas or suggestions, upcoming events, staffing problems, etc. You’d be amazed at how many things happen that no one ever hears about during the evening UNLESS YOU ASK.

2) Equipment check – Make sure all equipment has been returned and is prepped for the next shift.

3) Leave the building – IF Security leaves prior to the rest of the Staff, make sure that the doors are closed and locked behind you. Remove your “Security” shirt before you leave or cover it. I suggest that Security leaves as a group or at least in twos. The Buddy System always helps! There have been times when upset Patrons waited for Security after the closing of the bar. Have your car keys in hand and be aware of your surroundings. If you see something or someone suspicious alert the bar and Law Enforcement.

As always, be safe above all else. Until next time…