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.

Working during the Holidays

This is one of two annual End of Year posts before we head out on vacation. Enjoy

We find ourselves at the end of another year and with it the always stressful Holiday season. Shopping, cooking, relatives…and work. While much of the world gets to relax, many people – especially those in retail or the service industry – have to work. It is not fun, but as I explain in the post below, it is a fact of life. Is this a re-post? Yes. Why? Because every year someone – maybe even me – is going to complain about working.

So, here goes:

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with individuals of high integrity, strong work ethic, and exceptional character. I have also had the displeasure of working with slackers, layabouts, whiners, and the occasional ne’er do well. (I will now brush off my own shoulder for the use of such descriptive words…thank you.) When you work the field of security, there are many realities that you have to learn to face – or at least should – at an early stage of your career. The main one is this:

YOU MAY HAVE TO WORK WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO WORK!

As a matter of fact, you will probably have to work EXACTLY when you have something else to do! Security is a profession in which your skill set is in demand ALL THE TIME. When most people are doing something else, you are working. Period. This is especially true during the Holiday Season. During the month of December, there are parties, events, parties, and events…and did I mention parties? They will fall on every conceivable day of the week, but usually on weekends. And definitely on the days that you were expecting to do your Xmas shopping. Or that your grandmother is coming to visit. Or on your “day off”.

First, let me clarify that I am not complaining about working wherever, whenever. It’s my job, I do it. Period. Have I missed out on fun, celebrations, vacations, and holidays due to work? Yes. Will I complain? Possibly. Will I work again if asked? Yes.

EVERY. TIME.

Why?

BECAUSE IT IS MY JOB.

Whenever December rolls around, there WILL be events. And there is a good chance that Security will be needed to work them. Remember, people need to be safe 24/7/365. This is especially true during the Holiday Season when people are known to get a little “loose” at parties or stressed while shopping. And yet, as soon as Staffers start getting scheduled to work, the whining begins:

“Why do I have to work again this year?”

“Bob always gets New Year’s off!”

“But I have a work party to attend!”

Let me break it down for you a little:

Do you want a job or do you want convenience?

Sometimes your job makes your life inconvenient. You aren’t paid to set your own schedule, someone else pays you to work THEIR SCHEDULE. And there is no convenience during the Holiday Season, especially in the service industry. Don’t like things that way? Start your own business. Actually, don’t. Because when you work for yourself, you work ALL THE TIME…especially during the holidays.

If you want time off for the holidays, ask for it in advance.

Way in advance. Like a month in advance. And remind your manager every week until the time you get off. Why? It’s responsible, mature, and shows initiative. Remember, everyone will want the month of December off. Also, you should realize that there is a good chance that you will NOT get Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s off, even if you ask. If you’re lucky, you might get 1 out of the 3. And in reality, if you’re lucky you’ll be asked to work all three because your skill set is in demand.

Sometimes, in life, we have to do things we don’t want to do.

Sorry, that’s just the way it is. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes you eat the bear … and sometimes the bear eats you”. Sometimes you have to work on your birthday. Or your wife’s birthday. Or your boss’ birthday. Or on Xmas eve. Or New Year’s Eve AND New Year’s Day. If your free time is more important than your job, especially when your job entails random hours and unpredictable situations…you should find another job.

Take one for the team.

No one else can/will/wants to work? Maybe you should step up and show the boss that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be part of the team. I guarantee that if you volunteer to work over the Holiday Season you will get to witness your employer looking simultaneously confused, excited…and impressed.

On the flip side, you can’t act like a whiny baby if you get scheduled to work, you haven’t asked for the time off, and it’s your job to keep people safe. The only thing that acting like that will guarantee is someone else doing your job…once you are fired for not doing it yourself.

So prepare yourself for the Holiday Season. It will be hectic and it will be tiring. The hours will be long, the parties ridiculous, and the lines even worse. Smile, take deep breaths, and remain patient, even when you have to escort drunken Santa out of a bar full of people. But then again, if you didn’t like a challenge, you probably would have chosen another profession…right?

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…