Nightclub Security Positions (Part 1) – Roamers

The Bar and Nightclub Industry has changed dramatically in the past 10-15 years. Between liability and loss prevention, ABC regulations, and the introduction of social networking, the business is becoming more and more detail and Patron oriented.  Different promotions on different nights of the week, Facebook invites, Twitter, FourSquare, and 18+ nights all add up to increased workload as well as an increase in the need for job-specific training.

There was a time when all Security were “Bouncers”. But the advent of the upscale lounge and high end nightclub has changed this as well. Now, more than ever, people want to know your title when they walk in the door. Doorman, Floorman, Roamer, VIP Host, Host, Promoter…can anyone really keep track? And ultimately, does it matter? I would argue that while the title is NOT always necessary to the position (whatever that position may be), an understanding of the basic job duties that particular title holds IS always necessary.

In this next series of posts, I will cover the basic Security Staff positions and their various responsibilities. (As always, feel free to make any changes you wish in accordance with the type of bar or club you run)

ROAMERS (aka Floormen, Floaters)

These Security Staff members are tasked with basic club security. They generally circulate throughout the venue, acting as a visible security deterrent. More often than not, they are casually dressed, with a shirt reading “SECURITY” on the back.  Roamers are in many cases the most important members of your Security Staff. They are the cops on the beat, in touch with the vibe of the crowd and usually the first to arrive at any incident or disturbance.

Skill Set and Responsibilities:

  • Have general knowledge of a Bar/Nightclub’s Policies and Procedures. That means reading your establishment’s Security Manual!
  • Lookout for hazards to Patrons and Staff, including: broken glass, bottles, chairs, tables, and any other possibly dangerous obstructions. This is really the Roamer’s main responsibility as they have a better view of the Club than your Doorman or VIP Host.
  • Circulate throughout the venue, evaluating the conduct and attitudes of Patrons and looking for inappropriateness and misbehavior. They should be on the look out for early signs of intoxication or intoxicated Patrons.
  • Monitor male-to-male behavior like rough-housing and possible early stages of altercations. This should included talking to any individuals who appear to be causing trouble.
  • Interdict and de-escalate verbal and physical altercations between Patrons.
  • Attend to the needs of over-intoxicated or physically ill Patrons. That might mean carrying out an intoxicated Patron or holding a woman’s hair back if she is ill.
  • Attend to general cleanliness of the establishment. This means cleaning up spills, broken glass, and yes, bodily fluids if necessary.
  • Securing all remote Exits. Not every Exit will be visible from every part of the establishment. Make sure your Roamers are checking that doors are closed and locked, and that access to Exits  is unimpeded.
  • Monitor  for overcrowding and traffic flow. All Roamers should be carrying flashlights and directing traffic in crowded areas (Hallways, Bathrooms, Dance Floor, Stairwells) to prevent fire hazards.
  • Monitor behavior, line cutting, and traffic flow in Restrooms. Many fights begin in and around bathrooms. Keeping an eye on this area of the establishment will not only porevent altercations, but will cut down on illicit drug use.

Roamers should work in pairs when at all possible and should ALWAYS be equipped with a radio. In some instances, a Roamer may be used for initial set-up of your establishment: placing chairs and tables, brooms and dustpans, and any stanchions needed. They may also be tasked with the final “Push” at the end of the night in order to get Patrons out of the establishment.

Next time: Static Posts

The Ratio…

Sometime the question of Ratio arises. In regards to nightclubs and bars, some of you may be thinking, “Which Ratio?” Am I talking about the ratio male to female Patrons? Bartenders to guests? DJs to turntables? Actually, I’m not thinking about any of the above. What I am thinking about is Security Staffers to Patrons. As of now, THERE IS NO LEGAL, STANDARD STAFF-PATRON RATIO. Some bar and nightclub owners will tell you that there is. “Oh it’s about 1 to 35 or 1 to 50 or 1 to 570. Something like that.” Well, I can tell you from my experience (and humble opinion) that setting some sort of guideline of X Staff per X patrons doesn’t usually work. In some instances it can even lead to disaster. And that is what we are trying to avoid…right?

So how does one decide on the proper number of Staffers for any given night? While a bit time intensive, there are some considerations to take into account. Some of these may not pertain to your establishment, but they are generally useful for the majority of bars and nightclubs.

1) TYPE OF ESTABLISHMENT – Are you running a rowdy biker bar, known for its out of control crowd and constantly drunk clientele? Or are you running a quiet cigar lounge for the 40+ age group? Both demand a specific type of service and as such, a specific number of staffers.

2) TYPE OF EVENT – Does your quiet cigar lounge hold a College Night once a week that draws a capacity crowd of overly intoxicated individuals? Live music venues can bring in different acts 3-4 times a week, each act with its own specific following. How would you staff a classical quartet as opposed to a punk band? Always consider your event type before staffing.

3) TYPE OF CROWD – Are you hosting a high ticket entry fee wine tasting for the local country club? Or are you holding a wet t-shirt contest for the fraternity down the street? Different crowd, different staffing demands.

4) STAFF RESPONSIBILITY – Are your Staffers handling ticket sales and wristbands or just watching the crowd? Have they been asked to be as laid back as possible or does the promoter want them to be “hands-on” at all times? More responsibility will stretch a small Staff. Make sure they can handle the job at hand with relative ease.

5) FOOD/DRINK/WEATHER – Will your crowd be wining and dining on canapes or chugging beer with hot dogs? Is your outdoor event going to possibly have to move indoors if it rains? Make sure your Staff can handle food service and possible change in venue.

6) VENUE SIZE & PARAMETERS- Are you trying to squeeze 400 people into a tiny space or spread your crowd of 50 through at 5,000 sq. foot venue? How many exits, entries, or floors are you dealing with? In the event of an emergency (minor or large scale), you will need enough Staff to handle problems that may arise.

7) QUALITY OF STAFF – Does your Staff consist of all new recruits or have they all worked in the field for years? In many cases, a smaller, more experienced Staff will serve you better than a bunch of newbies who need supervision.

8 ) AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL – Open bar or pay per drink? Venues with open bars tend to get people drunker, faster. And as a result, will probably need more staffers on hand.

I’ve found that a good starting point in setting a Staff-Patron Ratio (for a common bar with few incidents) is about 1 Staffer per 35 Patrons. This generally allows for good Staff circulation and coverage. But there is a simple way to figure out your Ratio: what do you need covered?

As a bare minimum, I would suggest that you have the following Staffers on hand for a decent sized (100-200 person) establishment:

HEAD OF SECURITY – Someone has to be in charge, right? For special events, the H.O.S. should be involved in all stages of planning and execution. On other nights, he should be the 1st or 2nd person to arrive to help set up. He also acts as the liaison between you, your Staff, the Patrons, and if necessary, Law Enforcement.

FRONT DOOR – ID checks, ticketing, wristbands. On a slow night (and depending on size of venue) you can generally get away with one Staffer at the Front Door. I always suggest that this Staffer has a Back-up should he encounter any difficulties or need to leave the Front Door for any reason, which he more than likely will.

REAR DOOR – This not only to keep people from entering without being ID’d, but to keep people from letting in friends or wandering outside with drinks.

ROAMER – A Staffer to circulate, check on Patrons, do bathroom sweeps, pick up extra glasses, etc.

So going by our basic 1-35 Ratio, this would probably work for a crowd of about 140 Patrons.

But let’s add a few factors, such as a Patio, a Dance Floor, and multiple Levels. In this case, you would want your basic Front/Back Door coverage supplemented by a static post on the Dance Floor, at least one Staffer on Patio, and 2 Roamers to work the multiple Levels. Perhaps even a Door Outs to back up Front Door, and a Cashier post to keep an eye on the Box Office. Now you are up to 6-8 Staffers which should (theoretically) cover you up to 200-300 Patrons. Add a live punk band and an Open Bar…well, you can see how the numbers will probably start jumping.

I have worked a venue on a Halloween night with only 1 other Staffer, a live band, and 400+ guests. I survived. But I would not suggest you do the same in your bar. Having the minimum of 3-4 Staffers is a good start for any venue, but you must realistically map out your venue and take into account the list above. In anything, OVERSTAFF. It is far easier to cut Staff than it is to make panicked phone calls at 12:00 a.m. to get back up.

So, cover you basic areas (Front Door, Back Door, Roamer) first and add Staffers accordingly. Remember that your static posts can (and should) always become Roamers/Back-up in case of any trouble. Consider your crowd and event type and don’t be scared to bring on more Staff than you think you need. In the long run, it may just save your butt.

’til next time…

Disciplinary Action!

People do not behave well 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. That is just a simple fact of life. And those people can include your Security Staff. Unfortunately, when your Security is not on their best behavior, the problems they cause can end up having disastrous (and often costly) results. One of the things to consider when developing your security program is how to handle Disciplinary Action.

WHY DISCIPLINE?

Usually, the phrase ‘to discipline’ carries a negative connotation. But, in actuality, discipline is a method of modeling a person’s character and teaching acceptable behavior and actions in order to allow for a particular code of conduct. When someone tells you, “Look both ways before you cross the street”, you are being disciplined in a certain behavior to elicit a certain response. However, if you don’t look both ways before crossing and are then chastised (which at your age you really shouldn’t be), the meaning of discipline takes on a negative connotation, usually based on the negative feelings you experience.

Discipline is necessary to allow for teaching of right and wrong. And in an environment like a nightclub, where right and wrong decisions can often lead to very negative consequences, discipline is KEY. Your Staff need to know when they are doing things wrong. And they need to know right away.

WHAT TO DISCIPLINE

Every bar and nightclub has different rules. Some allow dancing on the bar, others won’t let you in without shoes. Just as there are different rules for Patrons, there are just as many rules for Staff. Depending on your establishment’s rules, you may need to discipline your Staff for a range of actions (or inaction) that other bars wouldn’t consider problematic.

First, consider a standard of behavior or conduct. What do you want your Staff trained to do or not do? Should they greet Patrons with a “Good evening.” or are you happy with a “What’s up?” Do you care if your Staff shows up on time or do they get a little leeway in regards to clocking in? Should your Staff be trained to dress or act certain way and if so, what is it?

Second, consider the consequences of particular actions. If your policy is “hands off the Patrons” (hint: it should be), then a Staffer physically lifting a Patron off the ground and throwing them out the door would be cause for Disciplinary Action. Why? Well, the Patron could be injured during the ejection,  which could lead to possible lawsuit, which could lead to monetary damages, which could lead to bar closure. Do the negative consequences outweigh the particular action? Yes. And as such, disciplinary action is necessary. You want to set a precedent for future actions and behavior.

Decide what type of behavior and rules you want in place and make your disciplinary decisions based on these rules.

HOW TO DISCIPLINE

I’m the first to say that no one on your Staff should be yelled at, under any circumstances, in front of other Staffers. It is demeaning and counterproductive, and often times can lead to more problems. It is possible to get across feelings of disappointment or anger without becoming a raving maniac. Behind closed doors I still don’t suggest yelling, but sometimes emotions can get the best of you.

First, it is imperative that you have some type of paperwork to back up and bolster to your claim. Leaving a trail of paperwork is always a good idea, especially when dealing with Disciplinary Action. It is possible that you may have to terminate an employee at some point and paperwork never hurts your cause…unless you don’t have it or falsify it.

A Disciplinary Action Form should contain the following:

Employee Name

Manager issuing Disciplinary Action

Nature of Infraction

You should also include whether or not the employee was issued a verbal warning and a written notice of suspension or termination for repeated infractions. And don’t forget to have the employee and manager sign and date the form!

Second, before you are going to confront someone with some type of Disciplinary Action, sit with it. Think about it. And go through what you want to say to the individual before the meeting. Make sure you have all of the facts straight. This might mean talking to others who were present when something went wrong.

Third, meet with the Staffer. Ask them if they have any questions or explanations as to their behavior or actions. Explain the problem with their behavior and let them know what the Disciplinary Action will be. It may be only a Verbal Warning or it could be a loss of a work shift. But you must let them know before they leave what the consequences of their actions will be.

Lastly, thank them for their time when you are done. Be firm and get your point across, but always be respectful! The Staffer may have slipped up slightly or just had a bad day. It happens to all of us so don’t jump down their throat!

When all is said and done, file the Disciplinary Action report and carry on. If you have a problem Staffer, you may need to hold further non-disciplinary meetings to discuss alternative courses of action. But usually one warning is enough for most employees. Make sure that you yourself are following the rules. No one likes a boss that talks out of both sides of their mouth and you are setting a bad precedent by breaking you own rules…have some discipline!

Until next time…