…and they sometimes fall down.
I was going to talk about ejections today, but then and I thought about it, and what better time to discuss intoxicated patrons and how to deal with them than the Friday of Fourth of July weekend? Yes kids, it’s that time again! The weekend when people decide it is their God-given right as tax-paying American citizens to get as blasted as possible, act like belligerent two year olds, and make your life as a doorman/floorman/bartender a living hell. That is until next weekend when they come in to “apologize”.
I know what some of you are thinking: “Ah, give ‘em a break! Drunks are funny!” And I would be lying if I said that they aren’t on occasion humorous to deal with. But while drunks may provide occasional amusement, the source of the amusement, their intoxication, is no laughing manner. Intoxicated individuals exhibit impaired balance, poor coordination, reduced inhibition, and erratic behavior, all of which can lead to seriously dangerous situations for both them and you.
Security must be continuously conscious of the fact that patrons have been drinking and that their behavior is influenced by alcohol. Most of the time, being visible and attentive is a deterrent to people looking to misbehave. Eye contact and body language can be used to let potentially troublesome patrons know their conduct is reaching the threshold for unacceptable behavior.
But sometimes, the “ol’ stink-eye” and wagging finger aren’t enough to get the point across and you must act accordingly. So how to deal with these patrons? Every bar and nightclub has its own approach, but there are basics to which any bouncer worth his salt should pay attention.
Should you find it necessary to approach an over-intoxicated patron or belligerent patron, your demeanor is often more important than the content of the conversation. Always, always, ALWAYS act with caution and patience when approaching a patron you believe to be intoxicated.
If you follow these rules, dealing with an intoxicated individual will be easier and more comfortable for both of you.
- NEVER approach an unruly or over-intoxicated patron alone, ALWAYS bring along another member of security. Why? Because drunks are unpredictable. You never know when a civil conversation will turn into an altercation. Or when the barely-standing drunk will suddenly need to be carried because they can no longer stay on their feet. If possible, alert the other security staff of a possible intoxicated person. The more eyes you have on a possible drunk, the better.
- Your body language should be secure and respectful. Do not look away or pay attention to other situations happening around the establishment. This is for your safety and to show the individual to whom you are speaking that they are the direct object of your attention.
- Be respectful, but firm. Use the words, “Sir”, “Miss”, “Gentlemen”, and “Ladies” as often as possible.
- Always maintain a good interview stance (45 degree angle with respect to the patron and hands freely and readily available). Do not place your hands in your pockets, or occupy them with anything. This will protect you in case of an attack or should you need to catch someone who is falling over.
- Always start out the conversation calmly, but in a firm and non-threatening manner. Use a relaxed conversational tone and never shout. Your choice of words and intensity can be increased as necessary. If you speak well, you might just avoid an escalating situation.
- Ask if the Patron is “alright”, not if they are “drunk”. Oftentimes, the word “drunk” can elicit a negative response from a person under the influence of alcohol. Their response to you will dictate whether they should leave, require a warning, or may continue to stay.
- Explain how their behavior is affecting their safety or the enjoyment of others, and offer a possible solution. “Sir, you seem to be having trouble standing. Why don’t you grab a seat?” If they are over-intoxicated, a simple, “Can I get you a water?” or “Can I call you a cab?” will not only give them an “out”, but will allow you to further assess their level of sobriety. Remember, we are constantly assessing the situation, the surroundings, and the individual.
- You can often deal with an intoxicated patron by asking their friends to intervene. However, this must be coupled with a warning to the group that any continued misbehavior will result the over-intoxicated patron being asked to leave. Again, do not say, “Your friend is being a drunken idiot.” A simple, “Your friend may have had a bit too much to drink, can you give me a hand over here?”, will work wonders in most cases.
It is very important that when talking to someone, you never back that person “into a corner”, either mentally or physically. Mentally backing a person into a corner can be as simple as treating someone rudely or disrespectfully. For example, if a group of gentlemen are being a little loud, you shouldn’t say, “Keep it down or your leaving!” Mentally, you just put them in a corner.
A better approach would be to say, “Good evening, gentlemen. I’m Joe Smith and I’m working security tonight. I realize you’re having a good time, but could you do me a favor and tone it down a bit? We would appreciate it.” This shows a respect for their good time while requesting a bit of respect from them for their environment.
If the patron is unwilling or unable to respond to you, a decision must be made for them. At this point, it is imperative that you contact your Head of Security or Manager and inform them of the situation. You can then decide on the proper course of action.
Above all, patience is key when dealing with the intoxicated. They will repeat themselves, they may forget where they are (or who they are), and they may not even realize who they are talking to. But it is your job to be patient, be helpful, and above all BE SAFE!