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!

 

 

Trust issues…

“I’m having this recurring issue and I was wondering if you could help me out?”

The person asking the question was the Director of Security – in charge of a number of nightclubs – and one of his Heads of Security (HOS) had been approaching him with a fairly regular complaint.

“This HOS is telling me that his Manager often overrides his decisions.”

“Uh-oh,” I said, “Let me guess, the Manager is actually deciding who gets let in the door…or who gets kicked out?”

The Directory of Security laughed, “Yeah, pretty much hits it on the head.” I took him by the arm and we proceeded to have a fairly lengthy discussion about trust and ownership of one’s position.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly common issue in many work environments. Managers and Owners are often hesitant to either cede control or to allow their workers to make final decisions. On the one hand, I can understand where they are coming from. After all, you are the boss and the ultimate outcome will fall on your shoulders whether it is good or bad. So taking the chance that one of your minions will mess things up can be a daunting proposition! On the other hand, you hired them for a reason…right? You hired them to do the work that you don’t, won’t, or many times can’t do so that you can focus on other things.

TRUST

How many Owners/Managers/HOS would put someone with zero experience at the Front Door? I’m guessing not many. Why? Because you want to make sure that the person acting as the gatekeeper to your facility is competent, wise, and knowledgeable. If you wouldn’t dare to put an inexperienced person at the Front Door, then why wouldn’t you trust an experienced person to make the correct decisions in that position?

Many times, this lack of trust comes from not being around enough to see this individual work on a regular basis. If you only pop in to check on your Staff once a night or only watch them work for 15 minutes or so, you will never get a full picture of what they are capable of. So show up, watch them in action, and ask questions of your Staff. Everything from “How is your night?” to questions about capacity and the general state of Patrons that evening. Not only will this show that you are engaged and know what you are doing, it will give you an understanding of your Staff’s knowledge about their position.

If you see a Staffer making a decision that you don’t understand, ask them about it. DO NOT accuse them of screwing up – unless it is something blatant – but instead, ask them to explain to you why they made the decision and then EXPLAIN to them what they did wrong if you see an issue. One of the biggest failures of Managers is not explaining the who, what, why, when, where, and how of mistakes their employees make. Take the time to have those discussions. And don’t forget to praise them when they make the correct decisions. Show your Staff that you are interested in enough in their decision-making process to have trust in their decision-making process.

OWNERSHIP OF POSITION

A big part of gaining trust is proving that you yourself are responsible. If you are going to be responsible, you have to take ownership of your position. And that means if something goes wrong, it’s your problem. This applies to both employees and even more so to Managers. I’ve seen employees walk away from issues and say, “That’s not my problem.” and I’ve seen Managers do the very same thing. What many Managers don’t understand is that all mistakes will eventually come back to them, so they have to take ownership of those mistakes…just as they would expect their workers to do.

As a Manager a big part of “owning” your position is not only admitting to mistakes you made but also attempting to rectify those mistakes on your own. If you tell something to do something and it works out poorly because the decision was a bad one: OWN IT! “Yeah, that was my bad. I’ll sort it out” DO NOT try and pass it off on other people. All this will do is lose you respect and maybe even have your Staff questioning your decision-making process. One of the worst things you can do is walk away from a problem that YOU created. By rectifying mistakes that you make, your Staff will see that you are mature and willing enough to admit your shortcomings. Lead by example. Don’t fail by ego.

As an employee it is just as important that you assert yourself and “own” what you do. If you are watching the patio, make that your domain! Know the ins and outs of every nook and cranny; down to when the 3rd porta-pottie line tends to get crowded. If you are a Doorman, know your IDs, your signs of over-intoxication, and how to greet people. If you are a Roamer, know your routes, your best spots to watch the action, and how to easily navigate the crowd! Why? For one, it’s your job. But it is also the sign of a person who takes pride in the work that they do. When your boss – or a Patron – comes up to ask a question, you’ll know the answer! And this brings us back to the idea of building TRUST. If you can demonstrate that you know your job, your boss will trust you to do it.

THE CONVERSATION

But what if you do your job well, you fix your (minimal) mistakes, and the boss still steps in, on, or over you? My suggestion is to make some time – NOT at the moment the issue occurs – to meet with them and hash some things out.

First off, refresh their memory of the incident and ask if there was a reason they acted in a particular way. You may be surprised that a) they don’t even remember the event or b) they saw things in a completely different light. Once you gain an understanding as to their perspective you can then present your side of the equation.

“I appreciate that you felt this way about XYX, but let me explain how it looked from my perspective”

Then calmly walk your way through your concerns and the solution that you would have proposed. This might help give a little clarity and hopefully provide your boss with the information needed for him or her to see your side of the story. Should the boss continue to step on your toes, it may be necessary to have an additional conversation addressing your concerns about their ability to trust you to do your job.

“Just so you know, every time you step into a situation, it diminishes my ability to handle the problem. I know you want to help out and I truly appreciate your input. And the team and I want to be able to provide you and the Patrons with the best service possible. But if you continue to interject, it sends mixed messages to the Patrons and Staff. They’re not sure who to turn to for guidance and direction, which in turn causes a lot of confusion.”

If this is a conversation you are going to have, make sure that you can provide several concrete examples of issues that you have faced due to “interference” by the boss. This is especially important if the issues then turned into liabilities.

Remember, you want your Owner/Manager/HOS to trust you to make the right decisions. But the only way that will happen is if you own your position and show them that they can trust you to make the right calls. And for you Owners/Managers/HOS out there: trust your Staff. They’re the reason you stay liability free.

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

 

Date Rape Drugs

Just last week, three women in Santa Monica, California prevented a date rape. They were fortunate enough to see the accused would-be rapist slip something into his date’s drink and notified both the woman and the restaurant’s management. Long story short, the man was arrested and is now facing criminal charges. As luck would have it, the restaurant caught the incident on video, which was one of the reasons they were able to act so quickly and notify Law Enforcement.

Unfortunately, Drug-facilitated sexual assault is something that occurs to both women and men. And as in the case above, 75% of all acquaintance rapes involve drugs and/or alcohol. How can you lower the risks of something like this happening in your (or other) establishment(s)? The answer is not so cut and dry.

First off, an understanding of the drugs and their effects is necessary. I have condensed some of the information from Womenshealth.gov here and I suggest that you go to their website for a more in-depth analysis.

The three most common Date Rape drugs are:

  • Rohypnol*  (aka ‘roofies’)
  • GHB
  • Ketamine (Special K)

Their effects are similar and basic:

  • Muscle relaxation or loss of muscle control
  • Difficulty with motor movements
  • Drunk feeling
  • Loss of consciousness (black out)
  • Confusion
  • Feeling out of control
  • Impaired motor function
  • Can’t remember what happened while drugged

Recognize any of these symptoms? You should, as they are similar to what happens when people are intoxicated. And herein lies the problem: how can you tell if someone is drunk or under the influence of a Date Rape drug? You can’t. However, there is one thing that will absolutely mitigate the risk of potential Date Rape situations:

PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR PATRONS – Because when you pay attention, you notice things!

  • When couples enter your establishment, try to gauge their level of intoxication. Is one more intoxicated than the other? As the evening progresses, has one of the individuals become markedly more intoxicated than the other? Many times, bartenders have a pretty good feel for who is at what level of intoxication and can gauge where people should be after a certain number of drinks. And as a nightlub security staffer you should learn to spot intoxication as well.
  • Are there single men or women sitting at your bar and standing around the dance floor/bar/lounge patio? Are they talking to anyone? Are they approaching groups of men/women or just single individuals? Are they purchasing beverages or approaching someone with beverages already in hand? Do they seem to be aggressively pursuing members of the opposite sex? This may not necessarily be a sign of someone drugging drinks but could be an individual who is making others uncomfortable.
  • As people exit the establishment what is their condition as it compares to when they entered? Obviously, if you have a huge crowd it is hard to gauge everyone’s state of sobriety. But if you watched the couple from earlier and he is carrying her out of the bar while he is dead sober, some flags should go up. Same goes for any individual who is being assisted on their way out.

ASK QUESTIONS AND COMMUNICATE

Bad people do NOT want attention. They do not want to be seen, heard, noticed, talked to, etc. So ask questions. Not everyone is a suspect nor should they be treated as such. But predators want to work on their terms not yours.

I am a big proponent of having conversations with Patrons. Asking people how their evening is going, if they watched the game, where they are headed that night…all simple questions that can often lead to more detailed and informative conversations. A group of women might point out a man who has been “creeping them out” or a single man might casually mention that he’s “…seen the same two women in a few bars that evening, always taking to single men, and they are here now.”

When people are carrying their “friend” out of the bar, ASK QUESTIONS. Are they ok? Who are they? Do you know these people? If you are not satisfied with the answer, ask more questions! A simple conversation can shed A LOT of light on a situation. I have witnessed numerous situations resolve themselves when a “bad guy” was asked just a few questions. If something seems very questionable: CALL THE POLICE. Many police departments have specific “Nightlife” units that are close by to help with issues you may encounter.

You and your team need to share information. If something doesn’t seem right mention it to someone else. They may have noticed the same thing or it might trigger something they saw earlier. Don’t be worried about mentioning something more than once. The more you talk, the more information gets spread around. Spotting something questionable and talking about it makes it a focus for your entire team.

Keeping an eye on your Patrons during arrival and departure is a good way to maintain customer relations, develop a rapport, and monitor them for any problems or questionable activity. Don’t be passive in your approach, be engaged, be personable, and PAY ATTENTION. Next time you might be the one to spot the troublemaker.

*Authorities are finding that Rophynol is slowly being replaced by Xanax and Klonopin in many cases.

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…