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…

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