“Should we install cameras? I mean, do they make that much of a difference?”
It doesn’t happen very often but on occasion, owners and managers of Nightlife establishment ask me for my opinion on the installation and use of CCTV cameras.
Listen, if you are still working out of the paradigm that CCTV use in a business can do more harm than good, you need to seriously re-evaluate your position. There is no reason why any business should be working without the benefit of CCTV coverage in this day and age. And with a variety of low-cost and technological levels to work with, it just makes sense for your bar or nightclub.
While I won’t go into detail on types of cameras, placement, or installation in this post, I will be addressing some of the arguments that have been put forth, both Pro and Con, for the use of CCTV cameras. For the record, I am very much for the use of CCTV and highly recommend that you look into purchasing a system for your establishment.
Cameras as a deterrent
There have been a number of articles and studies done on the efficacy of CCTV use in both Public and Private Domains. These studies show a mixed result when it comes to using only CCTV as a deterrent. However, when using CCTV in addition to physical security (guards) and other systems (alarms/lighting), there is a significant deterrent factor.
In other words: cameras work best in conjunction with other systems. Bad guys and girls don’t want to be caught in the act, period. The addition of other “counter-measures” to further impede bad behavior if/should the perpetrator defeat the CCTV system is an added layer of protection. And more than likely, the added layer of protection is enough to frustrate or impede extra attempts by the bad guys to do bad things.
Cameras as monitoring devices
Knowing that there are a number of cameras monitoring their actions will – at the very least – give the would-be criminals pause to think. Remember, the bad guys can be on your Staff! Bartenders giving away drinks, doormen pocketing cover charges, and even hostesses dealing drugs. These things happen and what better way to catch them than on camera? With today’s technology, you can literally place your cameras ANYWHERE. Inside cash registers, on shelves, in plants, behind photo frames…ANYWHERE. One benefit of smaller, hidden cameras is that people aren’t feeling like they are being “surveilled”, which is one of the arguments that people have against CCTV use. 
Cameras as evidence-gathering devices
Deterrence and monitoring capabilities are wonderful but the main goals of surveillance are to catch someone in the act and prevent further action or to use the footage as evidence later. The high-quality of today’s systems is incredibly beneficial when it comes to catching minor details that one would not have noticed in cameras of the past. Add sound to the mix and the value of the footage goes up exponentially.
Events unfold in real time on CCTV footage and that footage can be slowed or even free-framed if necessary to gather details. Witness testimony is sometimes flawed and individuals may forget or confuse details. And while Incident Reports are helpful, even they can miss important moments that occurred prior to or during an event. Cameras only miss what they can’t see. Though footage may be disputed but use of said footage along with eyewitness testimony and Incident Reports is exponentially beneficial.
Cameras as mediators
I’ve heard about issues with management behavior from employees. I’ve heard complaints about management from employees. And I’ve heard A LOT of complaint from patrons about employees. You know what is amazingly helpful in settling disputes about job performance, customer service, or employee mistreatment? CCTV footage.
Digital video can help to resolve any number of claims that would be unverifiable in any other format. It can be very hard to argue a case when the CCTV footage shows someone in the act, especially if that footage is time and date stamped!
“Yeah, but….”
I know that there are still folks out there who will argue against the use of CCTV and they are well within their rights. I know many business owners who refuse to use cameras. The reasons are varied but the main arguments against CCTV in businesses usually come down to privacy concerns, use of evidence, and abuse of the system.
Privacy concerns
To begin with, there is not much of an expectation of privacy in most workplaces. In fact, you probably have fewer privacy rights at work than you do while not at work. As a business owner or manager, you are well within your rights to film your employees and patrons. Period. The only exception being the placement of cameras in bathrooms or dressing rooms. And even that can be contingent upon what state you are in. As for your patrons, they generally forfeit their rights as long as you notify them of the CCTV usage.
“They’ll get caught doing bad things”
More than a few owners have indicated to me that their reticence in installing CCTV systems was based on the fear of their staffers doing something wrong and getting in trouble. For one, no one is perfect, so camera or not…they’re going to make mistakes. If the staff in your establishment is making you so nervous that you are worried they are going to get caught doing something bad, you need to seriously consider hiring a new staff. IF you are taking the time to mentor, train, supervise, and manage your staff, mistakes shouldn’t be an issue. Again, the camera footage can help to point out minor errors and be used as an instructional or training tool.
Abusing the footage
Employees are often worried that whatever they do on video will be used against them or that the footage will be abused in some way. While there have been cases of illegal filming or of footage being used for nefarious purposes, they are far and few between. You can allay your employees’ fears by letting them know that yes, they are on camera but that the footage is under lock and key and would only be used or distributed if absolutely necessary.

With any system, there is the possibility of abuse. But if you and your management are acting in the best interests of your establishment, patrons, and staff, the benefits of CCTV use far outweigh the perceived downside. Bad people will be less likely to try stupid things, your staff will know that they can rely on the surveillance to catch trouble, and you can rest assured in the fact that there is always a tangible backup should bad things happen. By using cameras, security staff, and a variety of alarm systems, you continue to make your establishment safe, secure, and – hopefully – as liability-free as possible.



Nightlife entertainment venues tend to be dark. Some darker than others, but almost all fall into the “Gee, I can’t see very well in here” category. And, as such, it is necessary for anyone working in these darkened environments to have some means of navigation and illumination. While well-lit walkways and stairwells are great, there is one piece of equipment that will never fail:


Yep, the old tried and true flashlight. It has many uses and just as many misuses. So sit back, relax, and let’s discuss proper flashlight use and etiquette.

LIGHTING YOUR WAY – The flashlight’s main purpose is to do just that: help you see where you are going. Unfortunately, many Security Staffers don’t understand that lighting your way does not mean shining your flashlight directly the face of the people standing in front of you. Should you need to get through a crowd of people, a nice loud “Excuse me”, coupled with your flashlight held above your head, slightly in front of you, and pointed STRAIGHT DOWN will suffice.

LIGHTING SOMEONE ELSE’S WAY – Should you need to point someone towards an exit or need to light that stairwell so they don’t fall, shine your flashlight at about knee to waist height. Anything else tends to lead to involuntarily flashing people in the face. And don’t forget to point (with your entire hand, not a finger) the Patron in the proper direction.

DIRECTING TRAFFIC/HIGHLIGHTING OBSTACLES – Should you need to keep people moving, constantly sweep the flashing light in the direction of traffic flow. In this case, a flashlight held at about shoulder height, pointed straight down is the way to go. If you need to point out obstructions or hazards, stand directly next to the obstacle/hazard and shine your light on it. Don’t forget to mention the hazard to people as they approach.

BLAST ‘EM – Situations do occur in which shining a flashlight directly at or onto someone is necessary.

  • Fights/Altercations – Shine your light directly onto whatever the situation may be. If the rest of the Staff have been keeping their flashlights low as in the examples above, the sudden beam of light shining onto an altercation will immediately draw attention to it. Keep your light on the situation as it occurs.
  • Distraction/Blinding – A good blast of light in the face of an unruly or aggressive Patron can buy you a few seconds of time. Some flashlights have strobe effects which are equally disrupting.
  • Pointing out a troublemaker – Sometimes an unruly Patron may get away from your grasp. In this case, instead of running up behind them and throwing a tackle, shine your light on the Patron while trailing them and calling for back up.
In closing, always remember to TURN OFF your flashlight when you aren’t using it. Nothing is as annoying as a flashlight in a Staffer’s back pocket illuminating the world behind them as they walk around, oblivious. Besides, it wastes batteries.
Until next time…

A Nightclub Doorman’s Gear….

The job of the Doorman is not easy to begin with, but if you are working without the necessary tools it can be downright horrible. While there is basic gear that every Security Staffer needs, the Front Door is an area with particular needs. Between the Doorman, Door Outs, and possibly a VIP Host, there are a range of responsibilities and equipment to help and make your job easier. So here is another entry in our series on Nightclub Equipment.


Most every club should have a stanchion or “rope” system in place. On the most basic level it is a way to keep people in line and designate where they need to go in order to enter the club. In larger establishments, ropes can be used to separate general admission from VIP and direct flow of traffic as people enter or exit. Whatever the purpose, purchasing ropes will improve your life. Where to buy them? How about a Google search?

CLICKERS (Tally Counters)

One of the more overlooked pieces of gear at the Front Door, “clickers” can save you from the heartache and frustration of being over-capacity and verify your in-door totals for the night. When used in conjunction with a Nightly Report, they can also track your business over the course of an evening.


This one is just too obvious. VIP lists, Guest lists, Promotional lists, holders for Nightly Reports; whatever the use, a clipboard or two is always necessary at the front door.


Kind of hard to write without these, yes?


Always have spare flashlights and batteries….please. Without fail, you will have a flashlight crap out on you during a shift. And it is pretty darn hard to find a replacement at 12:30 a.m. Trust me, I’ve tried.


Entrance Mats and Runners are another piece of equipment that I often notice are missing from establishments. Again, on the most basic level, they make your place of business more attractive. But more importantly, they cover you from slip and fall liability…literally! Place these at your Entrance and your Entry Lines. A solid investment, always.


Believe it or not, you haven’t come close to seeing every ID every created from every part of the world. No, really, you haven’t. And sometimes you might even be wrong about an ID you’ve seen a million times. Yes, really, you have. Cover your back, or at least show that you’ve put  in the effort buy purchasing some ID guides.

These come in very handy if you have foreign exchange students in a college town or a influx of out-of-towners during the Summer/Holiday season.


I’ve discussed the importance of communication on numerous occasions. Everyone should be on a radio and using them with some regularity. If you don’t have radios in your establishment by now, you are just a disaster waiting to happen


ID Scanners are used by many Nightclub Doormen and they find them to be incredible helpful. They can (often) register fake IDs, head count, and even to note individuals who have been 86’ed by your place of business. On the downside, they can slow down your line, aren’t always accurate, and can lead to laziness on the part of your ID checker. Ultimately, I am about 50/50 on the use of scanners, but the choice is yours.

My preference is to use a device such as The ID Sleuth (which I reviewed). It is portable, easy to use, and costs a fraction of an ID Scanner.

Pretty basic, easy-to-fill list, isn’t it? Most establishment should be able to acquire most of the items in this post. Do it, it will make your Doorman’s job much, much easier.

Until next time…

The Bat Cave…or the Security Equipment Room

The Coat Check. The Box Office. The Manager’s Office. The Liquor Cage.

Chances are  you know where each of these locations are in your place of work. But how many of you know where the Security Equipment Room is in your Bar/Nightclub? Chances are you have no idea where it is…because it may not even exist. Many Bars/Nightclubs/Restaurants give their Security Staff a box, or a shelf, or maybe a locker or two in which to store their equipment. In reality, it is just as important for the Security Staff to have an Equipment Room as it is for the Manager to have an office. An Equipment Room is at its bare minimum just that: an Equipment Room.

A separate room will give your Head of Security/Manager a place to hold meetings or have conversations where it is quiet and private. Any disciplinary measures or questions from Staff can be addressed away from the paying Patrons and any and all paperwork can be worked on away from the noise of the crowd. And honestly, it is nice for your Security Staff to be able to take a break from the craziness outside that doesn’t involve walking down the street to the coffee shop or sitting at the back of the Bar!

In a perfect world, your Equipment Room would contain a clock, a phone/fax, a computer (linked in to your CCTV system, scheduling, and payroll software), a filing cabinet for paperwork, a few lockers (possibly a coat rack), storage bins or shelves, and plenty of space for 2-3 individuals to prep for their shift. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so a good starting point would be some shelves and a coat rack.

Your team’s gear should also be held in this room:

  • Radios, earpieces, and chargers – Plugged in and ready to go…ALWAYS. And please don’t forget extra batteries and earpieces.
  • Flashlights – It still amazes me how many Security Staffers work without flashlights and how many establishments don’t have enough flashlights for their Staff. Again, extra batteries are never a bad idea.
  • Paperwork and logs – Checklists, Nightly Reports, Incident Reports, Applications, Disciplinary forms. All should be kept in this room. All relevant Personnel Paperwork may be kept in the Manager’s office, but it is fine to keep it here IF it is in a locked, secure cabinet!
  • First Aid Kit – There should be several in your establishment, but a large kit in this room.
  • Office supplies – Pens, paper, pencils, stapler, tape, etc. You never know when you need to whip up a sign or grab an extra pen.
  • I.D. Checking Guides and other relevant books
  • Box of Ear Plugs/Box of Latex Gloves – For safety and hygiene.
  • Spare clothing – 2-3 extra sport coats, t-shirts, or whatever your Staff need to wear for a shift. Staff may need to change out of their original clothing for any number of reasons! And there should always be extra clothing for them to wear.

There are a ton of other items that could go on the list, but these basics will get you pretty far. Your Equipment Room need not be The Bat Cave, but a Security Staff needs its own space to be able to do things without getting in the way. Keys for entry to the Equipment Room should be limited to H.O.S. and Manager for safety’s sake and remember to always lock the door when you leave.

Keep your Staff happy, and they will keep your Establishment and its Patrons safe.

Until next time….


Security Staffers often overlook one of  the most basic elements of their job: THE GEAR. Unfortunately, the importance of the gear that you carry is not often realized…until you need a particular piece of gear at a particularly important moment. What follows is a breakdown of recommended gear for Security Staffers, from the ground on up.


I often hear Staffers complain about how sore their feet are at the end of a night. Then I look down and see them wearing dress shoes with paper-thin soles or heavy steel-toed boots. Your shoes have to match your environment and no matter what they have to be comfortable for at least 6 hours of standing.

My recommendation is either some comfortable dress shoes with Gel inserts, orthotics, or some type of hybrid comfort/support shoe. If you are going to be doing a lot of  standing, you might want to wear the shoes for an entire day and see if they will get the job done. The socks that you wear are just as important. Remember to wear socks that breathe. And ALWAYS break in your shoes before you wear them on shift.


Regardless of how you are dressed, you should be wearing a belt. Not only does it make your look “cleaner”, but you need somewhere to clip your gear, no? A sturdy leather belt will work wonders. A utility belt will definitely work, but depending on your uniform it may not match.


Besides your radio, your flashlight is the most important piece of gear you can purchase. You can use it not only as an illumination device, but as a means of signaling your co-workers (if, heaven forbid, you are radio-less) or pointing out trouble. If you buy a flashlight with a high lumen output, you can also use it to temporarily blind an assailant or troublemaker. I suggest FENIX. They make a solid product in a variety of shapes and lumen outputs.

Remember, a flashlight need not be gigantic to do its job. Pick one that is a manageable size with a solid light output.


This is for you cold-weather workers. NEVER show up to a shift when it “may” be windy/rainy/snowy/cold without proper cold weather attire. Worst case scenario, you remove some layers. Worser (is that even a word?) scenario: frostbite or pneumonia. Wear layers, invest in a waterproof coat, and don’t be a tough guy: stay warm!

Some Staffers like to wear gloves as part of their “look”. Don’t. Just…don’t.


The most basic reason you need these items is to gather information after Incidents. Any notes that you take prior to filling out an Incident Report will be extremely helpful when you get to the paperwork stage. They are also helpful for writing down directions, phone numbers, descriptions, etc. Two of the most overlooked pieces of “gear”.


Many people don’t wear watches. Now that most of our society uses cellphones to tell time, they find watches unneccessary. While wearing a watch is a matter of personal preference, looking at your watch to tell time is always faster than pulling out a cellphone. And what if your cellphone dies?

You should ALWAYS have a freshly charged cellphone with you. ALWAYS. This is your lifeline to 911/Law Enforcement/off-site Head of Security/Management. The phone numbers for Police Dispatch (or in some cities Nightclub Patrol) should be pre-programmed into your phone. 911 is already pre-programmed, but in many jurisdictions 911 does NOT send you directly to the Police/Fire/EMT. A quick push of a button should get you in contact with whatever Department or service you need. And remember to have your Head of Security/Manager’s phone numbers as well, for both work and emergency related calls.


Work in a noisy dance club or live music venue? Buy earplugs. Simply put: they will save your hearing. Wear a single earplug if you have a radio in your other ear. You’ll be amazed at how much more manageable your loud environment will become, especially if you are stationed in front of a speaker.


If you own a bar or nightclub, you owe it to your Staff to purchase radios. They could literally save the life of one of your employees or Patrons. If you work in a bar or nightclub as a Security Staffer ALWAYS wear a radio. Yes, they can get heavy or uncomfortable. Yes, it can be hard to understand what people are saying on occasion, but it is this is the price you pay for being safe.

Staying in contact with your co-workers allows you to see the action if you are not in it, advise others of your status, and most importantly CALL FOR HELP. Put on your radio the second you get to work and TURN IT ON. Test the mic and volume level and call out a “Test”. Many Staffers put their radios on, but don’t turn them on, only to find out an hour later when calling for help that their radio is non-functioning. Don’t take that chance.


Without going into detail, the gum is the only thing on this list that is for your personal use…at least while you are on the clock. Many Patrons will ask you for one of the three and you will always be the hero if you can magically produce them.

Ultimately, having the proper gear is a matter of keeping you and your Patrons safe. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared!”

Until next time…

Product Review: The ID Sleuth

As promised, I will be posting product reviews here on the Tao on a regular basis. These reviews will hopefully guide you to equipment that you or your establishment may find helpful in the reduction of liability and improve your customer service. So without further ado…


For a little over a year now, Shaun Lager (a Nightclub Industry veteran) has given me glimpses of a prototype he has been working on. I was impressed and intrigued by the initial models and asked him to let me know when the final product was ready. Well, it’s ready and it is a winner.


THE ID SLEUTH is the first of its kind: a self-lighting, handheld, ID checking device. The frame is made of a tough polymer, which surrounds a 2x magnifying window with a 4x magnifying bubble.  Two small buttons set into the frame are used to activate one of two sets of lights: 2 LEDs or 4 UVs.

Front View with Magnifier and Power Buttons

Rear View showing LEDs and UV lights

To use the ID SLEUTH, you place an identification card 2-3 inches beneath the magnifying lens and press the button to turn on the LEDs. The LEDs put out a clear, bright light, easily illuminating any nicks, scratches, or alterations that may have been made to the identification.  The magnifier gives you an enhanced view of the ID, and the 4X bubble allows you to zoom-in on any questionable marks or imperfections. Once you’ve checked the identification for imperfections, the magic really starts.

LED lights in action

When you turn on the UV lights, the ID holograms – which adorn everything from Driver’s Licenses to Passports these days – pop into view. This is a huge plus, as most fake ID’s do not have holograms, and the fakes that do are easily trumped by solid UV lighting.

UV Lights and Holograms

Over the course of a weekend, myself and 3 other doormen used the ID SLEUTH. The initial reaction from both Doormen and Patrons was, “What is that!?” The ID SLEUTH worked like a charm. We were able to detect 2 fake IDs immediately and deterred a couple from trying to enter when they saw us using the device. One of the benefits of a visible, hand held device is its deterrence factor. Underage Patrons are far more hesitant to approach the Front Door if they see the Doorman holding a futuristic-looking ID machine.

When a young woman dropped her ID, the LEDs did an excellent job of substituting as a flashlight. It was fun spotting ID holograms from different states and hearing people’s reactions as well. The ID SLEUTH worked fine after being dropped and we noticed no loss of light quality or power over the course of its approximately 12 hours of use . By the end of the weekend, using the ID SLEUTH had become second nature. One of the doormen even asked if he could keep it!

Not much bigger than a Droid!

The ID SLEUTH is lightweight, measures 5 1/8”L x 3 1/2 W x 1”H,  and fits right in the palm of your hand. It also comes with a wrist strap or can be attached to an included suction cup stand for placement on a wall or table. And get this: the ID SLEUTH takes rechargeable RCR123A LI-ION batteries. I’ve also been told that the frame will be customizable so that you can put your establishment’s name on the front.

Those with small hands will find the ID SLEUTH a little bulky, but when compared to a large ID scanner, it is miniature. The only downside is the lack of a belt clip or holster,  but these issues are easily overcome by using the stand.

The ID SLEUTH has everything you need to check an identification in one basic, easy to use, cool-looking package. This device would be beneficial to any individual or establishment needing to quickly and easily verify any form of identification and I highly recommend it.


Simple, sturdy design

Easy to use

Rechargeable batteries

Visual deterrent


Bulky for individuals with small hands

No belt clip or holster

PRICE:            $99