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…

Spring Break Safety Tips

A little deviation from the norm this week as we approach Spring Break across this great land of ours. This one is for the kids!

Spring Break! Ah, the memories: Sunshine, the beach, attractive guys and gals, refreshing beverages, and adventures to last a lifetime. While our Spring Break days are long over, we are realists here and know that for many students and youngsters, this is the time of year to cut loose and get a little crazy. Fortunately, most students’ Spring Break will end with happy memories. Unfortunately, some trips will contain the unhappy memories of theft, assault, injury, or hospitalization.

For you kids out there, how can you ensure that you will be in the “Happy Memory” group? By following some simple Spring Break Safety Tips!

1)  SIGN UP! – First and foremost, do yourself (and your parents) a favor by signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The STEP program enables the State Department to contact you in the case of a family emergency or to notify you of a crisis near your travel destination. They also provide a Smart Traveler iPhone App. The State Department also has a great “Students Abroad” page that is worth a look.

2)  Makin’ copies – Make copies of your passport, passport card, and itinerary. Leave a set at home with someone you trust. Keep your passport in the hotel safe (as long as it is in YOUR room and YOU set the passcode) along with your valuables. And keep a paper copy of your passport hidden somewhere in your luggage and accessible in case you lose it.

3)  Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems – Before you depart, notify your credit card company that you are travelling to avoid getting your card shut off and to help spot unusual charges. Should you need to visit an ATM: DO NOT GO ALONE. Have one person use the ATM while the other(s) stands watch. DO NOT count your money in public or flash it around. You should only carry the money and credit cards that you need when you go out, in a hidden pocket if possible.

4)  “Pour up, drank. Head shot, drank” – Regardless of what Kendrick Lamar says, don’t fill up a swimming pool with liquor and dive in. This tip will probably elicit groans and eye rolling, but the reality is that excessive drinking impairs your judgment. And you DO NOT want to be in a foreign country (or any unfamiliar city) while seriously impaired. If you are going to drink, designate someone to the “Sober Guide” for the day. If you each take a turn, everyone will be safe and happy. Besides, not drinking everyday will actually help you enjoy your trip even more.

In addition, should you (or a friend) feel noticeably intoxicated after a drink or two, be aware of the possibility that you have been slipped Ambien or Rohypnol (Roofies). Excessive slurring, wooziness, and difficulty standing are surefire signs that you’ve been drugged. If this is the case, notify your friends immediately and leave your location. If the symptoms worsen, seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY.

5)  Drinking, Sunlight, and Hot Tubs…Not a winning combination – As much as we propagate the idea of chillin’ on the beach/in the hot tub with a drink, it is actually pretty bad on your body. Drinking in the sun will not only cause you to forget things like sunscreen (lobster tan, anyone?) but will intensify the effects of alcohol and lead to increased dehydration. And drankin’ in the hot tub dilates your blood vessels and lowers your blood pressure, which can lead to unconsciousness and drowning.

Stay in the shade, wear sunscreen, put on a hat, and DRINK WATER as often as possible. Already been drinking? Stay out of the hot tub!

6)  Party Drugs – Again, we are realists here and know that the temptation – or for that matter solid plan – to do drugs may be on the agenda. Remember, the laws governing your Spring Break destination are probably VERY different from the laws in your home state/country re: illegal drug use. Some countries offer the death penalty for transport or even possession of drugs. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to buy drugs in – or try to smuggle them into – a foreign country. Better yet, don’t do the drugs at all.

7)  Go Together/Leave Together – The saying, “There is safety in numbers” exists for a reason. You instantly become a target when you are walking alone or hanging out in the club by yourself. Make sure that you are watching out for each other and that no one wanders off. Remember that “Sober Guide” idea? Implement it and travel as a group. The other benefit to operating in “group think” is that the single person’s vote can be overridden a.k.a “We are ALL leaving. NOW.”

8)  Hook it up…or don’t – Yes, everyone imagines the amazing Spring Break hook up. In reality, this can lead to catching a nasty cold, contracting something you can’t get rid of that easily, or more seriously, sexual assault. Be realistic: if you plan on hooking up over your break, stock up on protection. Or you if plan on a quick make-out session, make it clear that things are going any further. Better yet, save yourself the hassle and just hang out with your friends.

9)  Strangers in Paradise? – In regards to the hook up or even the hangout, just because you meet a “chill” group of people doesn’t mean you should abandon your friends and set off on your own. Stick with your friends or bring along someone you trust. That goes for bringing randos back to your room as well. Don’t do it. As soon as your room becomes the “party room” valuable things start to disappear.

10) In Case Of Emergency – 911 does not work in every country. As a matter of fact, each country has its own version. Here is the list of emergency numbers around the world: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/content/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf

11) Trust Your Intuition – If you find yourself in a situation, place, or with person or group and you don’t feel comfortable…LEAVE OR LET SOMEONE KNOW. A lot of you will want to stick with the group to not be the Debbie Downer. But if your gut is feeling like something is wrong, listen to it. If you are wrong, well you made a mistake. But the consequences of not listening to your gut feelings can be far worse. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE RUDE AND INCONVENIENT AT ANYTIME! That means if YOU want to go, you have the right to say so. If YOU see a problem, you have the right to speak up. And if you OR someone you know needs help, you can ask for it. If you are voicing your concerns to your friends and they are not listening to you…it may be time to find a new group of friends.

12) Have A Good Time – In spite of what may be perceived as “doom and gloom” in this message, we want you to have a good time on Spring Break. As long as you pay attention, stick to your friends, act responsibly, and actually get a little rest, we guarantee that you will have fun.

Be safe amd enjoy yourselves!

 

Don’t let them Drink and Drive

On 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 MAY cause. 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.

Patron Ejections and Escorts

Over the past few years, I have written more than a few posts on Bar fights, Ejections, over-intoxicated Patrons, and how to How to Minizmize Nightclub Ejections. I wanted to take some time in this post to breakdown ejections a bit more and give you and your crew some more material to ponder.

It is important to remember that many of the Patron ejections you will deal with are cases of over-intoxication. Some of these individuals may be compliant, while others…not so much. Remember, regardless of the level of resistance on the part of the Patron, it is very important that you as a Security Staffer use the minimum amount of force necessary to get them out the door. More resistance on the part of the Patron does not necessarily equal more force on the part of the Staff.

Let’s take a moment to look over what an “escort formation” should look like:

^^^^^ Direction of the Ejection ^^^^^

X (Lead)

3′-5′ spacing

P (Patron)

X (Escort)To the rear and side of Patron, at arm’s length distance

 3′-5′ spacing

X (Follow)

The first position is held by your “Lead”. This Staffer is tasked with two basic assignments: to light the way and to clear the path. You may have noticed that when Patrons are enjoying themselves in an establishment, they can be fairly oblivious to what is going on around them, especially if the bar/club is noisy and crowded. The “Lead” needs to announce – loudly – that they need a clear path! “Coming through, heads up, look out folks, etc.” The wording doesn’t necessarily matter but you need to let people know that you are heading their way.

The Lead should also be no more than 5 feet in front of the “Escort”. This will allow for room to maneuver should the Escort need to restrain the Patron and will cut down on the possibility of the crowd sneaking in-between the Lead and the Escort. In addition to their announcements, the Lead should use a flashlight to light the way and to let people know they are headed in their direction.

The Escort is the key part of the ejection equation. More than likely they are the one who has talked to the Patron being asked to leave and may be supporting them (if they are unable to walk) or restraining them (if they are combative). Their entire focus of attention should be the Patron. The Escort should be walking just behind and to the side of the Patron. If the Escort is not supporting the Patron in any fashion they should be no farther than arm’s length away.

DO NOT stand directly behind the Patron while escorting them out. Should they stop short, turn suddenly, or become violent, a position directly to their rear is not easily defensible. Standing at an offset angle behind the Patron will force them to adjust their stance/gait in order to get to you. This, in turn, will give you the benefit of off-balancing of them AND of protecting yourself from wild swings, elbows, or headbutts.

The “Follow” position is often the most overlooked part of this equation. Their main job is to communicate to the rest of Staff and the Front Door that an ejection is taking place. The phrase, “One coming out, Front/Side/Back Door!” works perfectly and lets the Staff know which exit should be prepared to receive the Patron. The Follow must also deal with those individuals who are interfering with or impeding the Ejection. 95% of the time, when you are ejecting a Patron, their friends want to get involved. If you are lucky, they are just concerned with their friend’s safety. If you are unlucky, they may try to physically interfere with the process. While this is a concern for the entire escort team, it falls on the Follow to provide the physical barrier between the Friends and the Patron/Escort. If necessary, the Follow can call for back-up to help with the ejection process or the Patron’s friends.

Besides providing a physical barrier, part of the Follow’s job is to keep eyes on the crowd as the escort formation moves through it. People reaching out, trying to slip into the escort formation,  or trying to interfere with the Escort: all of this should be handled by the Follow. This means that they are also within 3-5 feet of the Escort at all times. I also suggest the Follow shine their light directly on the back of the Patron’s head. Why? Should the Patron turn, they will get a good dose of unexpected light in their eyes. Will this prevent all problems? No. But it can give you and the team an extra couple of seconds to deal with the Patron while they blink in the light.

During the entire ejection process, the escort team should be talking to each other, moving, and maintaining situational awareness. DO NOT STOP. Stopping provides the Patron more time to argue, allows their friends to catch up, allows the crowd to get involved, and most importantly: impedes your forward progress!

Get moving, stay moving, pay attention, and get out the door.

Until next time…

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

 

Spring Break Safety Tips

A little deviation from the norm this week as we approach Spring Break across this great land of ours. This one is for the kids!

Spring Break! Ah, the memories: Sunshine, the beach, attractive guys and gals, refreshing beverages, and adventures to last a lifetime. While our Spring Break days are long over, we are realists here and know that for many students and youngsters, this is the time of year to cut loose and get a little crazy. Fortunately, most students’ Spring Break will end with happy memories. Unfortunately, some trips will contain the unhappy memories of theft, assault, and the worst-case scenarios of injury or hospitalization.

For you kids out there, how can you ensure that you will be in the “Happy Memory” group? By following some simple Spring Break Safety Tips!

1)  SIGN UP! – First and foremost, do yourself (and your parents) a favor by signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The STEP program enables the State Department to contact you in case of a family emergency, or to notify you of a crisis near your travel destination. They also provide a Smart Traveler iPhone App. The State Department also has a great “Students Abroad” page that is worth a look.

2)  Makin’ copies – Make copies of your passport, passport card, and itinerary. Leave a set at home with someone you trust. Keep your passport in the hotel safe (as long as it is in YOUR room and YOU set the passcode) along with your valuables.

3)  Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems – Before you depart, notify your credit card company that you are travelling to avoid getting your card shut off and to help spot unusual charges. Should you need to visit an ATM, DO NOT GO ALONE. Have one person use the ATM while the other(s) stands watch. DO NOT count your money in public or flash it around. You should only carry the money and credit cards that you need when you go out, in a hidden pocket if possible.

4)  “Pour up, drank. Head shot, drank” – Regardless of what Kendrick Lamar says, don’t fill up a swimming pool with liquor and dive in. This tip will probably elicit groans and eye rolling, but the reality is that excessive drinking impairs your judgment. And you DO NOT want to be in a foreign country or unfamiliar city while seriously impaired. If you are going to drink, designate someone to the “Sober Guide” for the day. If you each take a turn, everyone will be safe and happy. Besides, not drinking everyday will actually help you enjoy your trip even more.

In addition, should you (or a friend) feel noticeably intoxicated after a drink or two, be aware of the possibility that you have been slipped Ambien or Rohypnol (Roofies). Excessive slurring, wooziness, and difficulty standing are surefire signs that you’ve been drugged. If this is the case, notify your friends immediately and leave your location. If the symptoms worsen, seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY.

5)  Drinking, Sunlight, and Hot Tubs…Not a winning combination – As much as we propagate the idea of chillin’ on the beach/in the hot tub with a drink, it is actually pretty bad on your body. Drinking in the sun will not only cause you to forget things like sunscreen (lobster tan, anyone?) but will intensify the effects of alcohol and lead to increased dehydration. And drankin’ in the hot tub dilates your blood vessels and lowers your blood pressure, which can lead to unconsciousness and drowning.

Stay in the shade, wear sunscreen, put on a hat, and DRINK WATER as often as possible. Already been drinking? Stay out of the hot tub!

6)  Party Drugs – Again, we are realists here and know that the temptation – or for that matter solid plan – to do drugs may be on the agenda. Remember, the laws governing your Spring Break destination are probably VERY different from the laws in your home state/country re: illegal drug use. Some countries offer the death penalty for transport or even possession of drugs. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to buy drugs in – or try to smuggle them into – a foreign country. Better yet, don’t do the drugs at all.

7)  Go Together/Leave Together – The saying, “There is safety in numbers” exists for a reason. You instantly become a target when you are walking alone or hanging out in the club by yourself. Make sure that you are watching out for each other and that no one wanders off. Remember that “Sober Guide” idea? Implement it and travel as a group. The other benefit to operating in “group think” is that the single person’s vote can be overridden a.k.a “We are ALL leaving. NOW.”

8)  Hook it up…or don’t – Yes, everyone imagines the amazing Spring Break hook up. In reality, this can lead to catching a nasty cold, contracting something you can’t get rid of that easily, or more seriously, sexual assault. Be realistic: if you plan on hooking up over your break, stock up on protection. Or you if plan on a quick make-out session, make it clear that things are going any further. Better yet, save yourself the hassle and just hang out with your friends.

9)  Strangers in Paradise? – In regards to the hook up or even the hangout, just because you meet a “chill” group of people doesn’t mean you should abandon your friends and set off on your own. Stick with your friends or bring along someone you trust. That goes for bringing randoms back to your room as well. Don’t do it. As soon as your room becomes the “party room”  valuable things start to disappear.

10) In Case Of Emergency – 911 does not work in every country. As a matter of fact, each country has its own version. Here is the list of emergency numbers around the world:http://studentsabroad.state.gov/content/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf

11) Have A Good Time – In spite of what may be perceived as “doom and gloom” in this message, we want you to have a good time on Spring Break. As long as you pay attention, stick to your friends, act responsibly, and actually get a little rest, we guarantee that you will have fun. Enjoy yourselves!

Dealing with gangs in nightclubs and bars

A cursory Google Search of Gangs in Nightclubs will give you a myriad of search results and as such reveal that this is indeed a serious issue that is dealt with by many bar and nightclub owners. The common thread to many of these stories is that the gangs had already set up camp within the establishment or were regular Patrons when issues arose. I have heard many people offer solutions to this particular problem, but in my experience the best and most effective way to deal with a gang problem in a venue is to prevent it from becoming a problem in the first place.

Dress Code

There is not a gang in existence that does not display its “colors” in one way or another. This is done as a form of identification both within the gang and to its rivals. It is important to note that in some circumstances a style of dress can also be a form of uniform. And that is where Dress Code comes into the equation. It is important to remember that your establishment is private property and as such you can adopt any dress code you wish. As mentioned previously on this blog, your Dress Code will dictate your crowd. An associate of mine once noted that, “People will act to the level of their dress.” This is an incredibly accurate statement. You will very rarely see people acting badly when dressed nicely. Why? Because people don’t want to ruin their nice clothes. Will there be exceptions? Always. But for the most part: nice clothes = nice behavior.

By instituting and enforcing a Dress Code you are removing the most visible (pun intended) option that gangs have in terms of identifying themselves, something that very few gangs will want to do. Remember, that if you are going to institute a Dress Code you MUST enforce it equally across all of your Patrons. If you do not, I can guarantee that you are opening yourself up to angry Patrons in the short term and lawsuits in the long run. “Out of Dress Code” means just that, regardless of whether the Patron is a college kid or the owner of the bar next door. Post the Dress Code at the door and stick to it!!!

Enforcement of Rules

I’m big on enforcing rules in any environment that has the potential for massive liability. Rules keep you, your Staff, and your Patrons safe from themselves, others, and lawsuits. Occasionally, venues will bend the rules for one reason or another and that may or may not be fine. Remember, you have to always consider the worst case scenario if you do decide to bend a rule. When it comes to removing problematic Patrons – in this case, gangs – from a venue, strict enforcement of the rules is the next step in the equation. Let’s say that a gang decides to comply with your Dress Code but when they enter the bar they constantly get into fights or harass the Staff. Enforce your rules. Fights = ejection. Harassment = ejection. Over intoxication = ejection. Not only do these things equal an ejection from the bar, they should also equal permanent expulsion from a venue. Once a few people in a group start to be denied entry to an establishment, the rest of the group will follow.

I worked with an establishment that had a few problem Patrons. These Patrons would generally behave well, but their “friends” would regularly start fights. The establishment started banning the troublemaking “friends”, but the regulars would always bring new friends or cousins or brothers. What did the establishment do? They 86’ed the problem Patrons with a very simple explanation, “Your friends ALWAYS cause trouble and unfortunately we are going to have to deny you entry.” The Patrons were not happy with the decision, but the bar didn’t have any more issues. Remember YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE.*

Law Enforcement

What if you have enforced Dress Code and your Rules, but still have a problem with gang members in your bar? Well, for one, if they are well-behaved and well-dressed, it doesn’t sound like you have a gang problem. But for the sake of argument, let’s say your well-dressed, well-behaved gang members are just plain intimidating your customers. If they have been willing to comply up to this point, have a direct talk with them and let them know what the issues are. Should this go no where, a very direct response is to involve Law Enforcement.

I am not talking about threatening to “call the cops” or “file a report”. Act in more subtle and effective ways. Let the police department know that you believe you have gang members in your bar and you would appreciate some advice on dealing with them. Next, ask law enforcement to do a nightly walkthrough of the bar. IF you are dealing with gang members who are involved in illegal activity, seeing police officers several times a night will definitely make them want to switch locales. Another option is to hire off-duty police officers to work your security. Known gang members will NOT want to be around off-duty police officers. The rules in your particular State regarding hiring of off-duty police should absolutely be consulted before you take this step.

THE LAST RESORT

If you somehow find yourself ignored by law enforcement or they don’t see the issue as major and you have exhausted all of your other avenues…CLOSE THE VENUE. It seems like a drastic step, but if you are already losing money and clientele, a short closure (2-4 weeks) can’t be much worse, right? During that time, reformat the bar: new dress codes, new rules, new seating arrangements, and if necessary: all new Staff. You need to hire people who are on board with your Zero Tolerance towards gangs stance. When you re-open, you must state in no uncertain terms, that the individuals who were frequenting the bar previously ARE NOT WELCOME. Period. End of Conversation.

Dealing with any unwanted Patrons is a matter of cautious patience. You must be very aware of your attitude and technique as the wrong approach can land you in very hot legal water. Take your time, figure out what the problem with your unwanted guests actually is (dress code violations, rule breaking, intimidation, etc.) and take a slow, measured approach.

Until next time…

*More on this in the next post!