Bouncer Fails…at everything

Every once in a while, I come across some material that is so beyond the pale as to be almost unbelievable. As a matter of fact, when I first watched the video I am referencing, I thought it was a set up, a fake. And part of me still hopes that it is. But the part of me that has to deal with Security Staff on a regular basis – especially poorly trained Security Staffers with the wrong idea of how to do their jobs – knows that this is all too real.

WARNING: This video is graphic and violent.

Usually when I post a video, I try to break it down and analyze it. Not in this case. What happens here is an assault, plain and simple. And if you watch the video carefully, it is a premeditated assault.

Please read our posts Just Walk Away and To Fight or Not To Fight. As one of my mentors says, “Don’t be this guy.”

Until next time…

Nightclub Industry Interview: Gabriel Magana

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Gabriel Magana of INDOCHINE in Santa Barbara, CA. Mr. Magana faces a different set of challenges than most Doormen, as he works the Front Door alone, with a small Security Staff inside the venue. We discussed issues can arise from working in a small city and his approach towards customer service.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING NIGHTCLUB SECURITY?

I’ve been at my current location for about 2 ½ years. Before that I did about 6 months off and on with a friend who had a security company down South.  But I was in radio for 8 years, doing promotion and concerts and really covering all aspects of that in tons of bars. I also did security on a college campus for about 8 years. So I was working at the college during the day and taking classes, and doing the radio gig and everything that entailed: security, promotions, bar set up, sound check, making sure the whole night was set.

However, I would consider this my first real “nightclub” gig. I’m really the face of the business here, being the only person at the Front Door as opposed to being part of a team like I was down South. Working there was totally different than working in this town. Different atmosphere.

HOW HAS SECURITY CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?

Not much, really. But like I said, there is a difference working in another town. In other places I would have to pat people down and wand them for weapons. A lot of the time it was up to me to watch people coming in and see if they would stash weapons or whatever in the bushes around the venue. People knew we searched patrons, so we kept an eye out ahead of time.

That doesn’t really happen around here, because we don’t have the same kind of crowds. It’s a more relaxed vibe.

DO YOU THINK THAT A “RELAXED” VIBE INVITES TROUBLE OR DOES IT MAKE PEOPLE MORE LAIDBACK?

I think it’s a little bit of both. You know, nowadays, everybody carries a knife on them. Doesn’t matter if they’re cowboys, or gangsters, or businessmen. We can’t catch everything, so you have to be on your toes regardless of the person. I work on the assumption that everyone can have a weapon. That doesn’t mean they are bad people, but a lot of times individuals will see that weapon as a “last resort” tool if they get in trouble, no matter what their background.

Some people feel that having really tight, visible security at the Front Door is a deterrent to customers or that it makes people uncomfortable. I’ve always seen it as more of an invite: “You know you can come in here, because you’ll be safe.”

People that are looking for trouble – that are open to it – when they walk by a venue and see extra steps being taken, aren’t going to take a chance going in that venue. They know that the odds of their getting caught are higher. Many of them are on probation or have records and they can’t afford to have us call the police if there is trouble. The more detailed and thorough you are, the better your chances of keeping out the unwanted customers.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF WORKING WITH A SMALL SECURITY STAFF?

We can usually handle whatever happens. It is always on the nights that you aren’t expecting a crowd and it gets ultra crowded that it can be tough. It’s the nights you don’t expect the crowd – like Wednesday or Sunday – that can surprise you. When I’m alone at the Front Door on those nights, and something happens in the back, it makes it hard to get right on top of the problem.

WHAT ABOUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF WORKING IN A SMALLER CITY?

People get to a certain comfort level. For example, if you don’t ID someone once, they don’t expect to ever be ID’d again. We get our regulars, but I still ask for ID’s. For one, I have to keep the bar safe and make sure the customers have ID. I also need to make sure that their ID is not expired every once in a while. The customers need to know that yes, law enforcement will enter the bar and ask for ID, and if you don’t have it, the bar gets in trouble, no matter what your age.

But also, it being a small town, I have to deal with the blowback (just like a lot of other guys around here) when I’m out during not work hours. If something happens in the club – whether it’s an ejection or over-intoxication – and the customer gets kicked out, I’m the face that they usually remember. And that can carry over into daily life when you run into someone at the coffee shop or whatever. You can’t take it personally when people get upset. Your best hope is that they actually apologize for what might have gone down the weekend before.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT FUNCTION AS A DOORMAN?

Not only am I representing myself, but I’m also representing the business, and our group of bars as a whole. If I’m rude, the customer is going to think that everyone else is rude. If I’m nice, they’ll expect the same elsewhere. I want them to not only have a great experience while they’re here, but to know that when they arrive they’ll be greeted with respect and a smile and a handshake.

A lot of Doormen don’t want to indulge in conversation. They just take the ID, look at it, and move on to the next person. I always ask people how they’re doing, how the night is going, I may read back their name to them, or tell them “Happy Birthday”. Just engaging in a small conversation can really make people comfortable and let you gauge their attitude or intoxication level.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR REMOVING RUDE OR UNCOOPERATIVE PATRONS?

First off, I just don’t even engage in the conversation. If someone insults me or disrespects me, I’ll just stand and nod my head. If the name-calling starts, I’ll just try to joke a little here and there. But generally saying nothing works better. I might even take the apologetic route: “I’m sorry you’re so upset, I don’t know what happened, etc.” If they continue to be rude or get really angry, then I’ll inform them that I’ll have to call the police. But staying calm and taking the insults is always better than reacting negatively.

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR NEWER SECURITY GUYS?

Treat your workplace like your home. This is your house, you’re having a party, and all of your friends are coming. How would you like them to be treated? Have respect for your place and you’ll have a good 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…