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 are 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…

Female Security Staffers

One of the first questions I ask when talking to prospective Nightclub clients is, “Do you have any female Security Staffers?”. Nine times out of ten I get a puzzled look and the response, “No. Why would I?”

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret today….

Females who work security are awesome.

I won’t waste your time listing the reasons why people think women should not be working security, because they are ridiculous. Instead, I will focus on the incredible benefits of having women work Security in your establishment

1) Searches – If you are a bar or nightclub that performs any type of physical search at the entrance to your establishment, by law you must have a female conduct the search on your female customers. Plain and simple.

2) Altercations – There is always a small possibility that a male Security Staffer will be accused of some type of sexual harassment should he have to break up a fight between two women. Not the case if you have  Female Staffers. Female Staffers are also less likely to use force in a physical altercation. Most women (notice I didn’t say “all women”) don’t have the “macho” ego is easily bruised by someone calling their mom bad names, hence aren’t rushing to defend their “manhood”.

I’ve also found that most women working Security are more patient and generally have quicker wits (and snappier comebacks) when dealing with tense situations. Sorry guys, them’s just the facts.

3) Calming Influence – Some men (notice I didn’t say “all men”) are incredibly hesitant to respond negatively to a woman breaking up a fight or asking what the problem is, which can be very helpful in defusing situations.

4) I See You – Women are better at spotting the questionable guy at the bar. They can more easily differentiate between a harassing Patron and a guy being flirtatious. Why? Because they’ve been hit on by men way more than you or me. Promise.

5) Bathrooms and Undercover Work – Men cannot enter the Ladies Room. A Female Staffer can go into the women’s restroom to clean up, break up an altercation, pick up the drunk sorority girl, or spot the questionable behavior (drugs) that may be taking place. A Female Staffer can work “undercover”, circulating the bar, watching Patrons, and reporting on anything out of the ordinary without being noticed. It’s much harder for a man working solo undercover to not be noticed – they tend to look like stalkers.

6) Working The Rope Line – Women working the Front Door are an incredible asset. They can control the VIP List with more skill, work the line with more tact, and can sometimes act as a deflecting shield for a stressed Doorman. “I’m sorry guys, my manager (points to the Female Staffer) makes the rules. You can take it up with her.” A great tactic and works amazingly well.

You should strongly consider Female Staffers. They tend to be more confident, less confrontational, more level-headed, and have far less ego. And for all those who say that women can’t handle themselves in a physical confrontation, you’ve obviously never been choked out by a 100 pound female BJJ practitioner. ‘Nuf said.

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…