Consequences – A Deeper Look

In a recent Tao of The Velvet Rope podcast, I discussed the potential consequences of action or inaction by you or your Security Staff. And in a recent blogpost, we saw the predictable outcome of bad action on the part of some Security Staffers.

It is human nature for individuals to react to the stimuli around them. In stressful, unexpected, or confusing situations we humans tend to have three basic responses: Fight, Flight, or Freeze. In order to streamline this discussion and perhaps add a touch of clarity, I would like to rename these responses Action, Escape, and Inaction. And while these new names are exact in their nomenclature, they’ll work for our purposes.

Think about the following Bar/Nightclub scenarios:

  1. You witness two Patrons yelling and shoving each other. Due to your distance from the two of them, it is hard to tell what initiated the physicality or how serious it is.
  2. A couple is standing across the room from you. The woman is petite and her boyfriend is a tall, well-built athletic type. They start to argue loudly, the woman poking her boyfriend in the chest.
  3. A young man and woman walk past you, towards the exit door. The woman is heavily intoxicated and the man is holding her up to keep her from falling over. You did not see them enter the bar together.

Each of these scenarios offers a myriad of potential responses. In Scenarios 1 and 2, you could call for back up and dive in fists swinging or brusquely ask what the problem is (Action), wait and see how things play out (Inaction), or you could leave the room and ignore the issue (Escape). In Scenario 3, you could step in to offer assistance (Action), stand and watch (Inaction), or turn a walk away (Escape).

What is important to understand about each of these situations and what makes the job of the Security Staffer so unpredictable and potentially dangerous is that if you don’t carefully consider the consequences of your Action, Inaction, or Escape, you can find yourself in deep, deep trouble. Very, very quickly.

Take Scenario 1, for example. Many bouncers would rush through the crowd in order to break up the fight and end up fighting or forcefully ejecting one of the Patrons involved. Let’s say that you do this and in the course of your Action, you punch the Patron. He falls down, cracks his head on the pavement, is knocked unconscious, and is taken away in an ambulance. What are the potential consequences?

1) Legal – You get sued by the Patron, the bar gets sued by the Patron, and the Patron presses criminal/civil charges against you.

Well, the bar has insurance to cover them. You don’t. Which means…

2) Financial – You need to cover the cost of your lawyer and potentially the cost of the Patron’s lawyer and doctor’s bills. You could also lose your job, have your wages garnished, or be unable to find further employment due to your new criminal record, which imposes a further financial burden on you.

3) Physical – What if you don’t win the fight? That means injury. And potentially serious injury at that. Maybe you lose the use of a hand or a leg or suffer from headaches due to a concussion. And let’s circle back to the doctor’s visits, doctor’s bills, loss of work, and again…loss of income.

4) Emotional toll – How about the stress of dealing with all of the above? And what if the Patron – or you – is permanently injured due to your actions or – heaven forbid – is killed. What is that weight going to be like to carry? And what about the toll all of this may take on your family or significant others? And that’s not to mention the possibility of you, your staff, and your establishment now carrying a negative reputation.

Inaction and Escape carry the same set of possible outcomes. If you ignore the issue or walk away and someone is hurt or killed, the list of potential negatives grows longer due to your negligent behavior. You were hired to keep people safe…and you failed to do that.

Scenarios 2 and 3 carry the potential for serious negatives. Full disclosure: Scenario 2 happened one night when I was working. The woman smashed a glass on her boyfriend’s head, nearly severed his carotid artery, and had to be hogtied and carried away by Law Enforcement. All this because everyone took the situation lightly and ignored it…until it was too late. Ignoring Scenario 3 might end up with a woman being sexually assaulted by an individual she doesn’t know or the woman driving away and crashing her vehicle.

“What the hell!? I’m screwed no matter what I do…or don’t do!” is the response I can already hear from some of you. No, no you are not. The key to avoiding negative consequences is simple:

THINK

Take a moment to survey the situation. Does something feel wrong and if it does, why? What is going on that is making your hackles rise? Or is it the case that upon a moment’s examination, you realize that the situation you are witnessing is not a serious as you considered. Say, for example, that the Patrons yelling and pushing each other are best friends just goofing around? Once you’ve surveyed the situation and made a decision, how is it that you should approach the situation at hand? Do you jump in? Do you yell? Are you humorous in your approach?

In the second and third Scenarios, taking a moment to assess the situation and ask if everything is ok takes just that…a moment. A moment that can keep things from escalating, can help to defuse tension or gain some reassurance that the couple heading out the door is actually together and fine.

I had mentioned in an earlier podcast that you should always ACT when you are uncertain of what do. And people tend to misinterpret that as jumping into the fray or immediately springing into “hero mode” No. Thinking is an action as wellTaking a moment to consider the possibilities is an action. Calling for backup is an action. Taking a deep breath and taking in your surroundings is an action.

Keep in mind that YOU are making the decisions. And YOU will have to deal with the consequences of YOUR actions. Impulsive behaviors in a high-stress, alcohol-soaked environment very rarely work out for the best. I would use the example of the last few blog post’s bouncers as a perfect example. Punching or beating up intoxicated individuals NEVER works in your favor, even if you are exonerated.

Always consider the consequences that may result from what you may or may not do in a given situation. The few moments you take to scan, assess, and strategize can make the difference between injury, financial ruin, and loss of reputation. Your action doesn’t need to be immediately physical but it should always be thoughtful. Need to figure out a way to get this point across to your Staff? Think about Scenario training and always debrief at the end of the night to go over any incidents or questions they may have.

Until next time…

Quick announcements…and a failure in training.

Quick notes this time around as we are moving some things!

PODCAST – The Tao of the Velvet Rope Podcast has a new home!

We have switched Podcast hosts to Libsyn. This gives us a few more options for outreach, commentary, and tracking, as well as a few behind the scenes improvements.

TRAINING –  We will be conducting a seminar in Missouri on April 23rd. It’s a great chance to learn something new, do some networking, and ask all the questions you’ve been holding onto for the past few years!

Hospitality & VIP Training for Nightclub & Bar Security

Follow the link for all of your information!

FAILURE IN TRAINING?

I don’t want to devote an entire post to this video but please take the time to watch it and think of what you or your Staff would have done differently. And then ask yourself, “Are my guys ready to deal with a situation like this?” If the answer is no…scroll back up the TRAINING link!

 

 

Nightclub Security Fundamentals

In the wake of this week’s Orlando nightclub shooting, there has been much discussion about what could have been done to prevent a large-scale massacre. We must first recognize that shootings on this scale (over 10 people) in nightclub/bar environments have never occurred within the United States. To state that mass casualty incidents such as this one are the norm or increasing in entertainment venues is not only counterproductive, it is patently false. However, the stark reality is that there are incidents involving guns in and around nightclubs on a regular basis. At least every few days, there is a report about a shooting or altercation involving some type of firearm in a bar or nightclub. And while some would try to guide the discussion towards preventing these specific large-scale events from occurring, the more measured approach should be to examine how bar, nightclub, lounge, and nightlife venue security can be improved on the whole.

The ultimate goal for any owner is to provide a comfortable environment for people to enjoy themselves. But at the same time, they must reduce liability and deter or dissuade those with criminal or potentially violent intentions. No discussion about nightclub security can begin without first talking about the role of the security staffer. It is these employees whose part in the overall scope of security is critical to the function of any bar, nightclub, or nightlife venue. Security staffers act as the front line when it comes to reducing liability, providing protection (for both patrons and the physical venue), and dispensing solid customer service. They are usually the first – and last – individuals that patrons will encounter in an establishment, and the staff’s attitude and approach can mean the difference between a customer’s great night on the town or a ruined evening.

Security staffers will spot trouble before the CCTV system, respond to any issues before law enforcement, and take care of any number of problems before the manager can arrive to help out. But no matter how well trained the staff may be, their ability to provide a safe, secure venue for patrons is dependent on the steps that management takes to assist them in the performance of their duties. Every establishment’s security program needs to be built on the idea of “concentric rings of security”, of which the security staff is only one.

Your First Ring of Defense – The Exterior

The first ring of protection begins with the physical security measures in place outside of an establishment: CCTV cameras, secured places of ingress and egress, and visible security staff. People with questionable intentions – whether petty thieves, underage drinkers, or armed attackers – are often deterred by the mere fact that there is security in place. In the majority of cases, criminals do not want to be seen, heard, noticed, or remembered. CCTV cameras limit the criminal’s ability to access a location unseen or enact their plans without being captured on video. Externally locked and clearly marked exit doors not only limit access but can force troublemakers to travel in a direction that will place them in contact with a posted staff member or within line of sight of a camera. Dedicated entry areas force interaction with security staff providing an excellent opportunity for them to ask for ID, remember a face, or potentially bar access to the venue – again limiting options for the would-be criminal.

The physical design of an entry and layout of a rope line can also help to direct people to specific areas, forcing the criminal to figure a way around perceived obstacles. Separate staging areas (i.e. entry line, cover charge area, and coat check) provide additional opportunities for observation of potentially violent or illegal behavior. The more time a potential troublemaker is exposed in an open area or under the watchful eye of an individual or series of cameras, the less likely they are to take any chances. If a target is too difficult or time-consuming to get to, the criminal will choose another target.

Additional steps that can be taken at the front door include the addition of metal detectors (static or handheld), bag checks, and physical pat downs. Besides the potential discovery of weapons before they can be introduced into the venue, these stepped-up measures can reveal everything from illegal drugs to banned items. The obvious downside is that people want to go out for a night on the town, NOT take a trip through the TSA line in order to grab a drink! What some clientele may view as a necessary annoyance others might view as an unwelcome intrusion. Remember, what patrons experience at the front door is going to set the tone for the evening and as such, establishments should have in-depth discussions regarding the implementation of what might be interpreted by some as “extreme” measures.

The Interior Staff – Your Second Line of Defense

While front door staffers are keepers of the gate, interior staffers will be the ones holding the line once the patrons enter. Interior staffers are the eyes and ears of a venue and will more often than not be the first to respond to issues within the establishment. A visible, easily identifiable – whether by uniform, dress code, or name tag – security staff member acts not only as a deterrent but as a potential helping hand to patrons in need of assistance. Knowing that they can easily find and communicate with a security staffer adds to patrons’ comfort levels and thereby their enjoyment of the evening. They know that should a problem occur, there is a staff member there to help. Security staffers should always make it a point to interact with patrons. Extended conversations about the general state of world affairs aren’t necessary, but greetings and questions about how patrons’ evenings are going are a must. The smallest conversations can oftentimes help reveal trouble or brewing problems.

To that end, observation and communication are among the most important factors to successful security coverage. Too many times a potential issue is noticed or handled by staffers within the establishment and there is no communication of the incident to those working the front door, to management, or even to others working within the venue. Nightlife venues MUST have radios – and have staffers trained in their use – in order to rapidly and effectively relay important information. But keep in mind that no amount of communication will be of use if there is not a set of protocols, policies, and procedures in place should trouble of any sort arise.

From responses to altercations to dealing with dress code issues, venue security staff should be able to follow a set of steps to get them from Point A to Point Z. Ideally, these policies and procedures should be contained within a manual and used as the basis of training for both new and old employees. Constant training and reiteration of policies help to build the foundation of a security staff’s base of knowledge. Along those lines, staffers should know the location of basic emergency equipment: fire extinguishers, first aid kits, breaker boxes, and emergency lighting controls. Scenario training – everything from dealing with minor injuries to handling large scale fights – and evacuation drills will help to further reinforce any security staff’s knowledge base.

Finally, developing a good working relationship with local law enforcement is of the utmost importance. All establishments should already have the local police department or state liquor agencies training their employees in ID checks and how to spot intoxicated individuals. Management should also work in tandem with local law enforcement to develop a plan and train staff in what to do during an active shooter situation. Whether meeting regularly with the local Night Life team, speaking to beat officers about recent incidents, or hiring off-duty police officers to work within a venue, frequent contact with LEOs helps to extend an establishment’s rings of security.

Nightclub incidents like the mass shooting in Orlando are still an anomaly. But one would be foolish not to try and prepare for them. Designing a security program for any venue begins with an honest discussion. Owners and managers should take a careful look at their existing security framework: do they have “concentric rings” of security, set policies and procedures, and a viable relationship with local Law Enforcement? Studying what is already in place, discussing what can be improved, and figuring how to make those improvements while still providing customers with an enjoyable night out will only help in the long run. Flaws are only a problem if they remain unfixed. At the very least, enhancing a security program will protect a venue from potential liability and keep patrons safe and happy. In a worst-case scenario, it could save many lives.

*If would like to hear a podcast version of this blog, please visit:
Nightclub Security Fundamentals

 

The FNG

The Rookie.

The Kid.

The Newbie.

At some point in time, you have either been or will work with The F’ing New Guy. Some staffers will be happy to take the opportunity to teach the kid the ropes. But most staffers will groan when they have to train a new bouncer. Why? Because teaching someone new everything there is to know about working nightclub security is basically impossible. Every inch of the club that you know so well is a confusing, obstacle filled maze to the new employee. Whether it is who gets to cut the line or which bathroom is for employees only, the amount of information that the new guy or gal needs to process can be overwhelming.

What many experienced staffers can’t see is the opportunity for growth that training a new bouncer provides. New employees ask questions you many not have considered for a while – or ever! They may see the crowd that you are used to in a completely different light. They might spot things that you take for granted and have been ignoring. But most important, they give you the chance to spread a little wisdom and in doing so, improve the way you do your own job!

START SLOW

I always start new staffers out with a tour of the establishment: entrances and exits, bathroom locations, fire extinguisher placement, gear room, etc. I don’t go into heavy detail about each area, just point out the basics so they know their way around. They’ll have plenty of time to learn the rest as they move forward.

New security staffers need to be assigned the easiest tasks for a couple of different reasons:

  • The approach that a new employee  takes to doing something simple will test their willingness to learn and determine their attitude towards being assigned menial tasks. If they aren’t willing to do the simple things, they probably can’t handle the complex ones.
  • Learning the simple tasks helps build the foundation upon which further responsibilities will be laid. If someone can’t learn a simple task, they shouldn’t be saddled with the responsibility of a more complex one.

I like to place new staffers in “static” posts: guarding a hallway, watching a back entrance, or manning an observation platform. This allows them to get a feel for not only how the crowd flows, but lets them refine their people watching skills, develop their abilities to say “no” – as in “No, you can’t come this way”, and get used to standing in one place, often for hours at a time.

ANSWER QUESTIONS…AND ASK THEM

New employees will have a TON of questions. You should always answer them honestly and directly. If you don’t know the answer…do not make one up. Let them know you’ll look into it and get back to them. In addition, never discredit any question that someone asks! I recently trained a very fresh crew of security staffers and they asked me “When it’s ok to go ‘hands on’ with a patron?” Many people would go on a tear or even fire the crew for asking such a simplistic question. But the reality is that this crew was NEVER TRAINED in ejections. My job was to teach and train them, so that’s what I did! I asked them if and when they thought it would be ‘ok’ and took it from there.

Asking a new hire questions is just as important as answering their questions. Ask them about themselves as well as what you have been teaching them. They’re a part of your team, so get to know them and make them comfortable. When you ask them what they’ve learned, don’t try to be tricky or sneaky about it. Be direct: How do you do this? Where to you place these? When do we act in this way? If they don’t know the answers…tell them the answers! This is not about making them feel stupid, it’s about teaching them how to do a job.

BITS AND PIECES

New hires can’t stay doing the simple tasks forever. Once the staffer seems comfortable with the basic work, slow integration into the team is the best policy. Have them tail someone (or several people) for the duration of a night. Have them do the job while someone watches. Pick up glasses, clear the bathroom line, keeping the sidewalk in order, all tasks that will need to be part of their duties moving forward. Again have them ask questions and ask them questions as you move along.

I would highly recommend NOT placing new hires in positions – or given responsibilities -where they would have heavy contact with patrons: VIP lines, entry ways, or ID checking. There is too much potential for slip-ups that might rub regular patrons the wrong way or lead to liability concerns.

THE TEAM

Most important is to make the new member feel like part of the team. Will they be treated differently? Absolutely they will, just by virtue of being the “new kid”. Just remember that the “new kid” might be the one to pull your butt out of the fire should things go wrong. The more knowledgeable your team is, the stronger they are and the safer you will all be.

Until next time…

The Right to Refuse Service

I know that I’ll probably cause a stir in writing this but here it goes:

The customer is not always right.

I can almost hear the rebuttals, see the heads shaking, and visualize open-mouthed gapes of disbelief. For most people – alright, pretty much all people – working in the customer service industry, this belief in the customer’s all encompassing power to be in the right – no matter what the situation – is an unbreakable tenet. Well, I disagree with it and you should as well. The customer is NOT always right. The Patron who gropes your hostess is not in the right, the Patron who threatens your Security Staff is not in the right, and the Patron who demands entry to your establishment is not in the right. People can be as loud, abusive, and just plain rude as they want. That doesn’t make them right and it doesn’t mean that you and your Staff have to take it.

Now, all of that being said, I am not advocating your Hostess punch a groping Patron (though I would press for sexual assault charges) or your Security Staffers pick up threatening Patrons and heave them bodily out the door. It is up to your Staff to be the bigger person – so to speak – and respond to even the most negative of situations in a professional manner. Which leads us to the concept of Refusing Service.

“We Have The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone”

I can’t think of any business establishments where this sign has not been posted in some iteration. But what does it actually mean? Do you really have the right to refuse service to anyone? Well, yes…and no. Businesses are considered private property, which allows the owners to dictate to whom they will or won’t provide service. However, the majority of businesses are also considered places of “public accommodation” which means that their primary purpose is to serve the public in some way.

How does this affect your bar, restaurant, or club? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” in places of public accommodation. That means you can’t turn someone away on the basis of any of the things listed above. More recently, laws prohibiting the denial of service on the basis of sexual orientation have been passed in many US states.

“Well, heck!” some of you may say, “It doesn’t sound like I can refuse anyone service without getting sued for some sort of discrimination.”

Well, yes…and no. First off, if you are trying to deny service to someone based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, you may want to re-examine your business model. And if you are denying service based on these things, you WILL get sued. Second, if you want to refuse service based on more realistic or potentially liability-creating issues, you need to develop a set of rules and guidelines for your Staff to follow and let your Patrons know what they are.

First and foremost, develop a Dress Code. We’ve discussed this in detail in previous posts but long story short, if you make people dress nicely, odds are they won’t misbehave. And if they don’t fit the dress code, they can’t get in the bar. Your refusal of service has just gone from “We’re not going to let you in, just because.” to “I’m sorry we can’t let you in, we follow a strict dress code.” Over-intoxication is another easy out. If your Patron – or potential Patron – is too drunk to speak or walk, they need to go. Or they can’t get in. Boom…service refused.

Some scenarios can lead to future refusal of service. Take for example a group of Patrons who consistently get into fights or harass other Patrons. Management can easily say to these individuals that based on their behavior and your desire to keep your other Patrons safe, they are no longer welcome in your establishment. The same goes for people caught drinking underage or sneaking drinks into the bar or climbing over the wall to get in. If you break the rules, you can’t come back.

It is important to keep in mind that your refusal of service cannot be arbitrary! There must be a reason for you to refuse service and IT MUST BE CONSISTENT. For example, let’s say your Dress Code says “No athletic gear”. You cannot deny entry to a Patron for wearing a basketball jersey and then let in another Patron who is wearing the same basketball jersey but is “a friend of the owner”. Nor can you deny entry to an Asian woman for wearing baggy clothes but then let in an African American woman wearing the same outfit. The rules have to apply equally, to EVERYONE. In addition, you can’t set a policy that may exclude a particular group i.e. no headscarves or skullcaps allowed. This could potentially discriminate against Muslim and Jewish patrons and, in turn, lead to a discrimination lawsuit.

The key is to present your Patrons with options for attendance that put everyone in the same boat of expectations. Dress nicely and act nicely? We’ll welcome you. Dress poorly and act rudely? Please find another establishment. Set a policy, apply it equally to everyone, and deliver your message in a professional manner. That way, when a customer is wrong, you have a viable reason to refuse them service. And always, always, always, explain your reasoning to the Patron. They may not agree, but you’ve shed some light on your rationale and given yourself a foundation to stand on should they argue the policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Them Drink and Drive

1467450_10102866756713397_1893859367_nOn Thursday, December 7th, 2013, a young bartender by the name of Mallory Rae Dies was crossing the street. She was struck by a driver who fled the scene. He was apprehended a few blocks away after crashing his car into a tree. Mallory was taken to the hospital.

On Wednesday, December 11th, 2013, Mallory Rae Dies succumbed to the injuries that she sustained in the accident. She was 27 years old.

When the driver of the vehicle was apprehended, his blood alcohol level was .17 – twice the legal limit for the state of California. This was his third DUI offense.

REALITY

The reality is that bars and nightclubs thrive on people having a good time. The reality is that some of these people will get drunk. The reality is that some of these people will have too much to drink. The reality is that a percentage of these people – both slightly buzzed and heavily intoxicated – will get into vehicles and drive. The tragic reality is that a percentage of these drivers will injure, maim, or kill someone else.

Does this mean that bars, restaurants, lounges, and nightclubs should stop serving alcohol?

No.

But the reality is that keeping your Patrons safe and trying to keep them from driving drunk or getting into trouble is something that should be emphasized as much as possible.

LEGAL LIABILITY & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Most businesses want to reduce their liability as much as possible. In the litigious world we live in, you can be sued for almost anything. Slips, falls, fights, injuries – you name it, your establishment can be sued for it. As such, businesses like mine are called to help reduce the liabilities and keep businesses like yours in business. When it comes to over-intoxication and drunk driving, many states are now enacting laws that state, “Social hosts and business establishments may be held statutorily liable for the actions of a drunk driver according to the law in the jurisdiction where the accident took place.”

What does this mean? In short, your establishment can be sued for the damage that an intoxicated individual causes. I can already see business owners sweating and fretting over “yet another thing I have to worry about”. Well, at the risk of sounding a bit callous, maybe this is something you should really be thinking about…and not just for the simple reason that you “might get sued”.

Regardless of your legal liability, I think it is important that we look at how we handle the issues of over-intoxication and drunk driving as SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES. I want your Patrons to have fun. You want your Patrons to drink. Everyone wants to have a good time. But we owe it to each other as human beings to look out for one another. And we must realize that sometimes that means extending yourself beyond the reach of the Front Door of your establishment.

HOW CAN MY STAFF AND I BE MORE RESPONSIBLE?

First and foremost, every individual on your Staff should undergo some type of Alcohol Awareness Training. In some states and countries this is mandatory and in my opinion it should be that way everywhere. Your Staff might grumble and gripe, but invariably seminar attendees walk out with useful information and many times learn things that they did not know before.

Teach your Staffers to be aware of levels of intoxication and know how to spot Intoxicated Individuals. Make sure that they know how to deal with over-intoxication and mitigate its effects. Tell your Staff to communicate any issues with possible over-intoxication. That means that EVERY member of your team – from Management to Busboys – be on the lookout for issues and be willing to speak up if they spot a problem. Servers and bartenders should know that they ALWAYS have the power to stop serving alcohol if they believe an individual has had too much to drink.

Anyone working the Front Door should be assessing both arriving and departing Patrons for their intoxication levels. Refuse entry to those too drunk to enter and ALWAYS offer assistance to those leaving intoxicated. Call taxis (and pay for them!), offer to call the Patrons’ friends, flag down a Police Officer – just make sure that you are not letting someone stumble off into the night with no idea of what will happen to them. These aren’t just Patrons, they are someone’s sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, mother, or father. I would hope that someone would look out for my loved ones if they were in trouble. And I would be eternally grateful if I found out that an employee from your bar was the one who helped to keep them safe.

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH

Finally, if you are going to enforce rules at your bar, make sure you enforce them at your parties, at your friend’s parties, and when you are out on the town. Offer your fellow human beings assistance and let’s make sure that we all get home to enjoy the holidays with our loved ones. The few moments that you spend getting someone (maybe yourself!) into a cab or calling their roommate to come pick them up could literally save a life. Sometimes a little inconvenience on your part can save a lifetime of tragedy.

Stay safe. Keep each other safe. We’ll all be better off for it.

Nightclub Security and Special Events

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.

CONFLICTING/INTERMINGLED EVENTS

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.

STAFFING

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.

PLAN AHEAD

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…