At some point during the year, there WILL be a “Special Event” at your restaurant/bar/nightclub. Be it a wedding post-reception gathering, a sorority social, or any number of sporting events or national holidays, you will have to step up your game and deal with a large influx of people. Some would say, “Well, my bar’s capacity doesn’t change, so what does it matter if there is a special event?” In many cases, this is a valid point. An extra 20 women for a bachelorette party usually doesn’t call for a shift in the set-up in your security…unless you are a small sized lounge, the bachelorette is a VIP, and you are dealing with lookie-loos and paparazzi. A basketball game generally doesn’t call for beefed up security…unless this is the first time your team has ever made it to the Finals. While your bar’s capacity does not change, the types of people, the type of event, and the importance of the event will ALL factor in to how you approach your security setup.
Convention centers, stadiums, amusement parks, and even large public spaces generally work from a template. They know their capacity and build from there. The amount of deviation from the norm is usually not drastic UNLESS the event is one of special importance. Think about a basketball game mid-season as opposed to Game 7 in the Finals. The capacity of the venue is the same. The crowd? Probably different. The amount of VIPs? Increased. The size of the crowd outside? Probably larger. And as such, the venue will make the changes necessary to adjust to these factors. Your establishment should not be any different in its approach. While the basic template that you work from does not change, you will need to tweak things in order to deal with the extra X, Y, or Z factors.
WHO IS HOLDING THE EVENT/WHAT IS IS FOR?
Is the local Union hall throwing an open bar, post-dinner party? Or is the local Middle School having a pizza night? Is it Game 1 of the Finals or Game 7? Are you holding your annual Sunday Funday Kick Off the weekend of July 4th? Each of these events will have different crowds with different needs, and probably different levels of intoxication.
If a private group is holding an event, several conversations – and hopefully a face to face meeting – should be held to determine their crowd make up, what they expect from you, and what you expect from them. Oftentimes, groups will hold a party and expect that the rules don’t apply to them. And if you do not explain the rules and how they will be applied, it can lead to very uncomfortable situations. Let the group organizers know who your various team members are, including the Head of Security. And, if possible, get your security team in on the meetings!
While important sporting events tend to run shorter – unless it is an all day Superbowl type affair – the intoxication level is usually much higher. People get excited – or despondent – over their team’s performance very quickly, with several mood swings as the event progresses and sometimes well after it ends. Your staff – both behind and in front of the bar – need to be cognizant of this fact. And while many sports bars are team specific, there may be a fan or two (or twenty) from the opposing team in your establishment. Security Staff should be aware of opposing fans and provide them with extra help/separation if needed. DO NOT allow your Security Staff to “pick a team”. This can lead to a lot of issues, especially if you have to separate the fans as the day progresses or at the end of the event.
Events like Halloween or the 4th of July will take some extra planning as they tend to bring with them increased intoxication levels and a “free for all” attitude from your Patrons. On days like this it it important to remember that your rules have not changed. All of the laws and liabilities still exist regardless of the fact that your Patrons are in costume or celebrating “Independence”. Over intoxication is still a problem and under age drinking is still illegal, no matter what type of event or its scale.
Your location may be throwing a Young Professionals Happy Hour which is follow closely by the Pipefitters Local 158 Open Bar Get Together. Can anyone say conflict of interest? Not to say that these groups won’t get along, but you need to be aware of the fact that they might not. If you have a way to separate very disparate groups, do it. Your best bet is to hold very different events on completely separate days. But this is not always possible so be aware of who will be in your bar when, and plan accordingly. Sometimes even an hour of time between one event ending and another beginning will be enough to create space.
Again, this can come down to a simple conversation with the event organizers. “Just so you know, such and such a group will be holding an event on the same day. Will this be an issue for you?” If it is an issue, see if it can be resolved via time management or physical separation. Maybe you put the Young Professionals on the 3rd floor or require a wristband to access their area of the establishment.
Chances are, you have a set Security Staff and the numbers don’t fluctuate. The reality of special events is that you may need your Staffers to work longer hours than they are accustomed to. If this is the case, do your best to stagger the arrival and break times of whoever is working the event. With this in mind, be sure to have someone who can step in for your Head of Security should he need to take a break. Having different, reliable team members act as the “lead” throughout the day can help to relieve some of the stress that will accompany the longer hours.
Should you need to bring in additional Staff, be very cautious as to who you hire at the last minute. Your best bet is to bring in individuals referred by your employees or from other venues (if you have own or know other owners). Whoever you bring in must be briefed on YOUR way of doing business and if possible shown the basic procedures for evacuation and ejection of Patrons. These temporary hires should also be paired with a current employee to guarantee that they don’t act outside of their expected arc of responsibility.
More than likely, you will have some lead time for any special event. As soon as the date is set on the calendar, you should meet with management and formulate a plan. If possible, meet with any prospective clients to ensure that your ideas and their ideas are in agreement. And alert your Staff of any impending events to allow them time to prepare and clear their schedules if necessary. Once you’ve figured out the scope and size of the event you can dive into Scheduling.
Remember, your job won’t change during special events. The basics still apply. It is only a matter of applying the necessary skill sets to a larger group or more chaotic environment. With proper planning and preparation, your team will be ready to meet the challenge.
Until next time…