Who Works The Front Door?

As the year comes to and end, I thought it would be a good idea to dive into the world of Nightclub Politics. Well, ok, to be honest, this post is actually the result of several conversations with disgruntled Doormen, but it does have to do with the dynamics of the Nightclub/Bar/Lounge setting.

First off, a note to all Bar Managers and Owners: You can manage your Nightclub/Bar/Lounge any way you see fit. After all, it is your Nightclub/Bar/Lounge.

Second, a note to all Bar Managers and Owners: You should occasionally listen to your Security Staff when it comes to how to run your Nightclub/Bar/Lounge.

In this instance I am referring “management” of the Front Door. Anyone with any experience in an adult entertainment venue (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter! I mean Nightclubs/Bars/Lounges) knows that the Front Door is where all of the “action” is to be found. All the employees want to work there, you might have to “know someone” to get in, and being “The Man” (or Woman) on the Velvet Rope is seen as incredibly cool. The reality is far different, but we’ve discussed that in detail in a previous post.

What I am most interested in here is the problems that arise when too many people try to run the Front Door. In a perfect world, the Doorman, Door Ins, VIP Host, and Door Outs should be the only people in front of your establishment. Believe it or not, you hired them for a reason: to run your Front Door! They each have responsibilities and if they are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, will guarantee you a night free from hassles, Law Enforcement visits, complaints, and incidents.

However, this is in the perfect world. We actually live in the imperfect world. This is the world where:

The Promoter stands out front and waves his “VIP guests” in, without checking their IDs or levels of intoxication. “But they’re fine, I promise.”

The Cocktail Waitress drags in two of her roommates, who don’t have their ID but “…are both over 21, I promise.”

The Barback begs you to let in his little brother, who doesn’t pass dress code, but is a good kid “…and won’t cause any trouble, I promise.”

The Owners show up with a guy who was 86’ed last night, “…but will behave tonight, I promise.”

Do we see the potential liabilities in these promises?

Oftentimes, the Bar Manager/Owner stands out front and oversees his/her Staff and overrides their decisions in the interest of “doing more business”. Is this wrong? Not necessarily. But it is in the best interest of anyone who owns or manages a nightclub/bar/lounge to listen to their Security Staff’s concerns. Do you always have to listen to what they say? No. But if your Head of Security is voicing concerns about you, the Owners, the Cocktail Waitress, the Barback, and the Promoter…you should probably pay some attention. If your Front Door Staff are being constantly overridden, by individuals who believe they have a say, possibly with the “go ahead” from Management, it is a problem. And a problem that could come back to bite you in the behind.

Does this mean that you as the Manager/Owner shouldn’t question your Staff on their decisions? Absolutely not. But allow them the leeway to make decisions as they see fit, as these decisions are generally in the best interest of your establishment. That being said, if your Front Door Staff are blowing it for everyone by allowing in minors, patrons who dont pass dress code, or their rowdy friends – by all means take charge. But standing in the doorway, double checking every ID, waving in every group of sorority girls, and questioning every ejection will not endear you to your staff. Promise.

It is of vital importance that the opinions of the Front Door Staff are heard, as objectively as possible. After all, it is in all of your best interests that the Front Door is regulated and controlled, with as few cooks in the mix as possible. Your front line  Staffers are the ones reducing your liabilities by not allowing in individuals who may cause you any number of problems. Observe them. Offer suggestions. And let them do their jobs. That’s why you hired them. Right? Besides which, 15 people working the Front Door is just plain crowded.

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 4) – The Doorman

Everyone wants to be The Doorman. No, really. The goal of every person working on a Nightclub Security Staff is to be The Doorman. It is seen as the ultimate power position, the shot-calling spot, the decider of who enters or who does not. Security Staffers think about what they have to do and how they have to do it to reach this coveted spot “On The Rope”.

Well, it’s time to crush a few dreams.

One of the most difficult positions in any Nightclub or Bar is, you guessed it: The Doorman. You take the most abuse, get cursed at regularly, and are told that you are worthless, stupid, and on an ego trip. And this is from people trying to get INTO the bar. Doorman are spit at, swung on, laughed at, and have things thrown at them. Boyfriends want to fight you for hitting on their girlfriend and girlfriends want to fight you for not letting in their boyfriend. 90% of the time The Doorman is taking abuse. The other 10%? Actually doing your job.

So what in actuality IS The Doorman’s job?

To begin with, you need to know how to do the jobs of every other Security Staffer in your establishment. Roamers, Floormen, Door Outs, all these positions have some bit of knowledge that will be relevant to your position at the Front Door. And more often than not on a slow night, you will be called on to fill in someone else’s position in a pinch.

As Doorman you need to be well acquainted with the Policies and Procedures of your establishment. This is to ensure that you can answer any Patron’s questions with confidence. Nothing is more telling of a Doorman’s lack of professionalism than his (or her) inability to answer basic questions about their bar or nightclub.  A Doorman needs to know all Security Staffers’ names, the establishment’s capacity, entrance and exit points, the location of fire extinguishers, equipment, the Manager’s Office, and any and all information that Law Enforcement or the Fire Department may request. After all, the Doorman is usually the first face that they will encounter upon arrival during an emergency.

As Doorman you need to know your IDs inside-out and back to front. You are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping underage drinkers out of the bar. A good Doorman will always keep an ID Book near should an unusual ID pop up. You should know a fake ID within a few seconds of it being handed to you. Believe it or not, one of the biggest Doorman fails is just checking to see if the ID is real and not matching it up with the person who gave it to them!

Controlling the flow of people into the nightclub/bar is another important duty. If your establishment is running multiple lines (VIP, Table, General admission), communicating with the other Doormen/Hosts is key to keep things moving. The second a line starts to back up or bulge onto the sidewalk, you are presenting yourself with a whole other set of issues. Now, some nightclubs/bars want a long line. Fine. But you need to figure out how to move those people in quickly once they get to the front of the line.

Managing the individuals entering the club is another important aspect of the Doorman’s job. Are they drunk? Aggressive? Rude? You need to make a call on whether or not to let them in. Your club may have a strict dress code or a “look” that they expect from their Patrons. Make sure you know what it is depending on the night of the week. And finally, it is often the Doorman’s job to be the “face” of the club. You are the first people see when they arrive and the last one they see when they stumble out the door. You want to be remembered as the nice guy, not the jerk.

Among the Doorman’s other responsibilities:

  • Prep and clean Front Entry
  • Set-up line ropes, stanchions, trashcan, and mats
  • Assist VIP Host/Hostess throughout evening with any concerns. Make sure that you are in constant communication with the VIP booth in order to ensure a smooth flow of Patrons. The last thing a VIP wants is to be held up at the Front Door, regardless of how much money they are paying
  • Facilitate cover charge (when applicable). IF you are tasked with charging cover, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH CHANGE AND CHECK IT OFTEN. Nothing will hold up a line faster than a Doorman waiting for change.
  • Keep capacity count. This is very important, especially is medium sized clubs. The Fire Marshall and Law Enforcement WILL shut you down for being over capacity. And while the tendency is to go over capacity, make it your job to let the Manager know when you are getting close to full. This will help you manipulate the line.
  • Work closely with Law Enforcement to maintain order at Front Door and Sidewalk. Listen to Law Enforcement. They may make your life miserable at times, but it is for a reason. While it may be a pain to clear that sidewalk, it is an even bigger pain (and way more dangerous) to break up a fight between two groups waiting to get in.

A Doorman needs two things more than anything else: PATIENCE and a SENSE OF HUMOR. Patience is key when dealing with language barriers, intoxicated Patrons, people who have been ejected, or people you won’t let in. It is important that you learn how to defuse heated situations, without getting personally involved. Anyone working in Security should read: Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

Being a Doorman is like being a comedian who is being heckled for four hours a night. Learning how to deflect insults will prolong your sanity and make your nights far less stressful. Learn how to take a deep breath, count to 10, and move on. You must be able to laugh at the ridiculousness of any number of situations you encounter. You must be able to laugh at yourself, your co-workers, and yes, Patrons who are acting irrationally (though hopefully not in their face).

You will be yelled at.

You will be called names.

You will be poked in the chest.

Your friends will approach you when the line is 50 deep and ask to be let in.

Women will flirt with you and call you the wrong name.

Men will suddenly become your best buddy and try to tip you $1 instead of paying the $20 cover.

Someone will threaten you.

People will get angry at you.

People will tell you that  your club sucks and that you are a terrible person, even though they waited in line for an hour to get in.

DEAL WITH IT.

If you cannot handle being treated poorly, you should not be a Doorman. If you can’t take insults hurled at you from across the street, you should not be a Doorman. You have to take abuse with a smile and break bad news to people with a smile. You have to turn people away from the door in a manner that makes them feel good about themselves and let people into the club that you would never talk to in the “real” world. You will make people angry, sad, or happy depending  on whether or not you let them in. As a co-worker of mine once said, “The Doorman is only the good guy when someone is let into a club, without waiting, for free, with five of their friends. The rest of the time we are just big jerks.”

Still want to be The Doorman?