Nightclub Paperwork: Employee Handbooks

This week we return to the wonderful world of Paperwork. Paperwork serves several purposes, from keeping track of equipment to telling your employees how to do their job. We will focus on the latter in this week’s blog post.


Did I get your attention? Good. Now, let me backtrack. Employee Handbooks are surprisingly not required by law. This is probably due to the huge amount of conflicting laws that each state and the federal government have in regards to employment. However, I would highly recommend that you create one for your establishment.


Because an Employee Handbook provides your employees with a set of protocols for how things will be handled at your place of business. This in turn is important because is covers your behind when dealing with everything from perceived favoritism to sexual harassment charges. If every employee receives a manual, they will know that a set of policies and procedures will be followed and (hopefully) applied fairly to each person you employ.

From a managerial point of view, everything in an Employee Handbook can be used to protect you. From what? Wrongful termination claims. Discrimination claims.  Sexual harassment claims. You are protected in that the Handbook will contain a Code of Conduct for employees (including management) that establishes expectations for appropriate workplace behavior. And since employees sign off on the handbooks they receive (usually AFTER they read them), you have a record that the employee read and understood the contents of the Handbook. That means they know the rules!

What if an employee does break the rules? Your Handbook should include disciplinary procedures as well as procedures for filing employee complaints. This way the employee knows what they can or cannot do on the job AND what procedures to follow should they see a co-worker/manager doing something they perceive as wrong.

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

Things will go wrong and your employees should know how to proceed when they do. But an Employee Handbook should contain positive components as well. The story of your company, its history, its culture. All are important parts of getting your employees to understand the how’s and why’s of the way you work.

And every employee wants to know their rights, responsibilities, benefits, and compensation. All things that make people actually show up to work! Don’t forget that the positive components of employment should also be highlighted: time-off policies, vacations, and any flexible work schedule guidlines.

What To Include?

Here is a short list what you should consider in your Employee Handbook

  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Employment At-Will (may vary by State)
  • ADA Act
  • Policy Against Sexual Harassment/Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures
  • Drug & Alcohol Policies
  • Employee Information (Attire, Equipment, Behavior, etc.)
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Scheduling/Shift Coverage/Sick Leave
  • Job Descriptions by Position

The list can literally go on for pages. I would suggest that you Google Search a few terms and see if you can’t find a format that works for you. Another option is to go out and buy some software. Your Employee Handbooks need not be 60, 50, or even 20 pages long. But they do need to contain the information pertinent to your establishment and the way you conduct business.

Until next time…

Opening Checklists for Nightclubs

So it begins, another night On The Rope. You’ve parked your car, made the long walk to the venue, and clocked-in. Now what? Well, if you work in a relatively organized establishment, you should a have a list of duties or a checklist to follow.

Oh, you don’t?

I guess it is time to have another little paperwork discussion. Remember, while paperwork can be a burden, it can also cover your behind and make you that you do everything you need to, in the correct order. And if you have a list for the end of the night, you should probably have one for the beginning.

So let’s tackle the opening (figuratively, not literally) and see if we can’t organize ourselves just a bit. First off, knowing Who is staffed When is immensely helpful when putting together your opening list. A running count of how many Staffers you have on hand to do work is always key to quick, easy organization. Now that you know who comes in when, let’s get cracking.

Here are some possible items for your Opening Checklist:

  1. Front Door – What does your Door Staff need when they arrive and what will they need as the night progresses? Stanchions, ropes, carpet, clipboards, count clickers? These are for sure items that should be prepped and placed ASAP. Think about what else you and your Staffers use up front and put it on the list. And don’t forget the little things…like water
  2. Front Door Prep – Now that you have your gear, how and when do you set it up? Do you need to re-configure your rope or your entrance? Do some sweeping? Figure out the best time and order for you and your Staff to get the door ready. And check the items off the list as you go.
  3. Interior – The Bar Staff has to prep their bars. You have to prep your Interior. Trashcans? Go-go dancer Platforms? VIP Stanchions? What do you need and where does it go? Have you done a sweep of the restrooms to make sure they are set? Put it on the list
  4. Exterior – Do you have a bar with Patios or exterior VIP Seating? Exterior restrooms or  Porta-Potties? Platforms to watch the crowd? Put it on the list.
  5. Equipment – Does everyone get a radio and flashlight? Who gets ID books? Put it on the list.
  6. Management – Have you met with Management to discuss your VIP schedule/special events/staffing? You should and it should be on the list.

Some people find that lists are redundant. And depending on the size of your venue, you may not need a very extensive list. But I guarantee that if you have a checklist – regardless of venue size or staff responsibilities – nothing will be missed.

Until next time…

End of Night Checklist…

About 30 minutes before closing time, you should start to notice a familiar pattern in any Bar or Nightclub. No, I’m not talking about desperate men or women looking for that last chance at “love”. I’m talking about Security Staffers prepping their areas for Last Call and Closing. If you’ve seen a well-trained Staff closing, they do it with almost military precision. Chances are they have been either trained on how to close, have a checklist, or both.

In yet another part of our series on Paperwork, we dissect the Closing Checklist and its various components.

First off, I find that a Closing Checklist is actually more important than one for Opening (which will be covered soon, promise). At the end of a long night of work, it is very easy to get lax and forget about what you need to do to wrap things up and get home. You’ve been on your feet for hours, dealing with all kinds of ridiculousity (yeah, that’s a real word…kind of…not really), and want nothing more than to herd the Patrons out and climb in bed. But realistically, this last 30-60 minutes is THE most important part of your night. People are at their most intoxicated and unpredictable, so wouldn’t it behoove you to be the most on top of your game?

The Closing Checklist will obviously vary from Bar to Nightclub to Lounge to Restaurant, but these basics should cover most of what you need:

MUSIC OFF – Yes, there is actually time that the music (whether DJ or in-house stereo) needs to be turned off. And the DJ won’t do it on their own, they need to be reminded. Find out what Noise Abatement regulations exist in your town, put the time the music needs to be OFF at the top of your list, and ENFORCE it. No one will be happy about it, but then again at the end of the night , is anyone ever happy with any decision you make regarding their fun?

CLEAR STANCHIONS – This can vary depending on the establishment. Many places of business need to get the sidewalks as clear as possible before letting out 100-500 Patrons. Moving stanchions can help to give the crowd room to move and allow your staffers to direct traffic. It also removes the possibility that stanchions will be used as weapons should a fight break out. Some establishments prefer to keep stanchions in place to guide traffic. Unless you have an individual manning the stanchions and ready collapse them instantly, I personally do not recommend this approach.

CLEAR CLUB INTERIOR – Before Last Call is announced, your Staffers should already be in place ready to begin The Push. Placing this item on the checklist will assure that it gets done.

CLEAR FRONT SIDEWALK/ALLEY/WALKWAY – Wherever there is an exit from your establishment, you should have Staffers stationed to keep the Patrons moving. Clearing this area also includes picking up any floor/doormats and garbage that might impede or interfere with flow of Patrons from inside your place of business.

RETURN ALL FURNITURE – I had an experience once where a Staffer left all of the Patio Chairs in an alley. All night. Until the next day. In plain sight. While it may seem obvious, you should be platooning people out to return all furniture to its proper place.

RETURN RADIOS AND EARPIECES – Make sure the your Staff is returning their gear, unless they own it!

LOCK FRONT DOOR – It is always amazing to me how often this is overlooked. LOCK. THE. DOORS. It takes 2 seconds and can save you from liability and theft.

COMPLETE INCIDENT REPORTS – Make sure your Head of Security completes and files Incident Reports before he or she goes home. They should be completed at the time of an Incident, but sometimes things get hectic and left by the wayside. Do it at the end of the night, when events are still fresh in your mind.

CLOCK OUT – Obvious? Not always. People are tired, remember? Remind your Staff.

Based on the size of your business, this list can be shortened or lengthened to cover all of your bases. Regardless of the length of the list, I guarantee that having one will make sure that the necessary work gets done. I would also recommend that the Head of Security or Doorman is in charge of the Checklist as their responsibilities should be shifting towards the managerial at this point of the night.

Until next time…

Disciplinary Action!

People do not behave well 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. That is just a simple fact of life. And those people can include your Security Staff. Unfortunately, when your Security is not on their best behavior, the problems they cause can end up having disastrous (and often costly) results. One of the things to consider when developing your security program is how to handle Disciplinary Action.


Usually, the phrase ‘to discipline’ carries a negative connotation. But, in actuality, discipline is a method of modeling a person’s character and teaching acceptable behavior and actions in order to allow for a particular code of conduct. When someone tells you, “Look both ways before you cross the street”, you are being disciplined in a certain behavior to elicit a certain response. However, if you don’t look both ways before crossing and are then chastised (which at your age you really shouldn’t be), the meaning of discipline takes on a negative connotation, usually based on the negative feelings you experience.

Discipline is necessary to allow for teaching of right and wrong. And in an environment like a nightclub, where right and wrong decisions can often lead to very negative consequences, discipline is KEY. Your Staff need to know when they are doing things wrong. And they need to know right away.


Every bar and nightclub has different rules. Some allow dancing on the bar, others won’t let you in without shoes. Just as there are different rules for Patrons, there are just as many rules for Staff. Depending on your establishment’s rules, you may need to discipline your Staff for a range of actions (or inaction) that other bars wouldn’t consider problematic.

First, consider a standard of behavior or conduct. What do you want your Staff trained to do or not do? Should they greet Patrons with a “Good evening.” or are you happy with a “What’s up?” Do you care if your Staff shows up on time or do they get a little leeway in regards to clocking in? Should your Staff be trained to dress or act certain way and if so, what is it?

Second, consider the consequences of particular actions. If your policy is “hands off the Patrons” (hint: it should be), then a Staffer physically lifting a Patron off the ground and throwing them out the door would be cause for Disciplinary Action. Why? Well, the Patron could be injured during the ejection,  which could lead to possible lawsuit, which could lead to monetary damages, which could lead to bar closure. Do the negative consequences outweigh the particular action? Yes. And as such, disciplinary action is necessary. You want to set a precedent for future actions and behavior.

Decide what type of behavior and rules you want in place and make your disciplinary decisions based on these rules.


I’m the first to say that no one on your Staff should be yelled at, under any circumstances, in front of other Staffers. It is demeaning and counterproductive, and often times can lead to more problems. It is possible to get across feelings of disappointment or anger without becoming a raving maniac. Behind closed doors I still don’t suggest yelling, but sometimes emotions can get the best of you.

First, it is imperative that you have some type of paperwork to back up and bolster to your claim. Leaving a trail of paperwork is always a good idea, especially when dealing with Disciplinary Action. It is possible that you may have to terminate an employee at some point and paperwork never hurts your cause…unless you don’t have it or falsify it.

A Disciplinary Action Form should contain the following:

Employee Name

Manager issuing Disciplinary Action

Nature of Infraction

You should also include whether or not the employee was issued a verbal warning and a written notice of suspension or termination for repeated infractions. And don’t forget to have the employee and manager sign and date the form!

Second, before you are going to confront someone with some type of Disciplinary Action, sit with it. Think about it. And go through what you want to say to the individual before the meeting. Make sure you have all of the facts straight. This might mean talking to others who were present when something went wrong.

Third, meet with the Staffer. Ask them if they have any questions or explanations as to their behavior or actions. Explain the problem with their behavior and let them know what the Disciplinary Action will be. It may be only a Verbal Warning or it could be a loss of a work shift. But you must let them know before they leave what the consequences of their actions will be.

Lastly, thank them for their time when you are done. Be firm and get your point across, but always be respectful! The Staffer may have slipped up slightly or just had a bad day. It happens to all of us so don’t jump down their throat!

When all is said and done, file the Disciplinary Action report and carry on. If you have a problem Staffer, you may need to hold further non-disciplinary meetings to discuss alternative courses of action. But usually one warning is enough for most employees. Make sure that you yourself are following the rules. No one likes a boss that talks out of both sides of their mouth and you are setting a bad precedent by breaking you own rules…have some discipline!

Until next time…

“I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up!”…or Nightclub Incidents and How to Record and Report Them

Yep, that’s right, the Paperwork Monster strikes again. Don’t run and hide from it, be a hero and face it down!


For some reason, when people see someone else fall down, they laugh. Some comedians have made entire careers out of prat falls. But in the really world things like falls and accidents can take a real physical and financial toll. In the Nightclub environment, slips, falls, and injuries are almost unavoidable. Drinks get spilled and make the Dance Floor slippery. People get drunk and try to negotiate stairs. Intoxicated individuals try to stand on the bar and fall off. These things happen and when they do, you should be prepared to deal with the repercussions that come after the fact…usually in the form of a lawsuit.


For Nightclubs and Bars, Incidents can be defined many ways. These are considered Incidents because they are actual witnessed events, usually with some form of evidence:

ANY INJURY TO A PATRON – A glass cut, slipping and falling, or twisting an ankle on the stairs, for example.

ANY PHYSICAL ALTERCATION RESULTING IN INJURY TO PATRON(S) AND/OR STAFF – Basically, any injuries sustained during a fight.

ANY THREAT OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE MADE TO PATRON(S) AND/OR STAFF – For example, if one Patron turns to another (or a bartender) and says, “I’m going to beat you to a pulp!”

ANY THREAT OF LITIGATION MADE TO PATRON(S) AND/OR STAFF – If a Patron says, “I’m going to sue you!”

ANY PROPERTY DAMAGE CAUSED BY PATRON – If a Patron throws a bottle at a mirror and breaks it or kicks down a bathroom door.

Make a copy of this list. Post it somewhere visible. And make sure that your Staff know what is and is not considered an Incident. There is nothing worse than a Staffer not taking notes on an Incident when they should be! And when in doubt file an Incident Report.


Should one of the Incidents listed above occur in your establishment, quick action is necessary. Your protocol may vary from what we have listed, but your entire Staff should be taught what to do regardless of the steps or order in which you wish to take them.

1) Have one of your Staffers notify the Head of Security or Manager IMMEDIATELY. Do this slowly and calmly. If it is a serious Incident, the more patient and level-headed you are in dealing with it, the better off you will be. Tell them what the problem is and what, if any, steps you have taken.

2) The Head of Security/Manager should assess the situation and make a decision as to course of action (if none has been taken). This may entail contacting Law Enforcement in case of an altercation or calling for Medical Assistance in case of Injury. The Head of Security/Manager should take as objective a view as possible of the Incident. This means not taking sides or laying blame.

3) Make an attempt to contact the Patron(s) involved in the Incident or any Witnesses to the Incident. Try to gather their contact information and, if possible, gather any information, including a brief Witness report. If a Patron has witnessed a fight, ask them what happened. If someone threatened them, ask them for a description of the person doing the threatening.

When possible, try to make any questioning brief and to the point and do it with a calm demeanor. Individuals involved in altercations may be agitated. Let them calm down before trying to ascertain what happened. The more information you can gather, the better off you will be when you take the next step…


EVERY BAR NEEDS AN INCIDENT REPORT FORM!!!! Regardless of the size of your facility or type of crowd, an Incident Report form is necessary. We are trying to create a paper trail so that in case of litigation, you will have something to back up your side of the argument.

Don’t have an Incident Report Form? Well, try a Google Search. Easy, no?

The Incident Report Form should contain (at a minimum):

A place of Witness Information

Date/Time/Place of Incident

Staff Involved

Description of Incident

Again, this is the paper trail that will help you in case of some type of civil suit. Having even a minimal amount of documentation is better than having nothing at all. Train your Security Staffers in how to identify Incidents and how to fill out the proper Paperwork.You may not always be around and someone needs to know what to do in case a problem arises!

Until next time…

Dress To Impress…

Your bar, nightclub, restaurant, or lounge needs a Dress Code. Period.

I could just leave it at that and have you figure it out on your own, but that’s not  why I’m here. I’m here to explain the why’s and how’s of the industry, right? So let’s take a look at Dress Code and its Why’s and How’s.


1) Dress Code dictates Environment – The type of club/bar/lounge/restaurant you are or want to be is just as dependent on your Dress Code as it is pricing and decor . When a Patron enters the door, they know right away the kind of environment they are patronizing, based on how people are dressed. If you were to enter an establishment with 25 televisions showing team sports, yet everyone was in a suit and you’d probably realize, “Hey, I’m in an upscale Sports Bar”.  What kind of environment do you want? Part of creating that environment is dictating a Dress Code.

2) Dress code decides Clientele – If you allow people into your establishment wearing whatever they want, anyone who wants can enter the door. Conversely, by dictating what people must wear, not everyone will come to your establishment. You must decide, “Who do I want as my Patrons?” College kids? Bikers? Elderly Couples? Each of these groups dresses in specific ways and will either not want to be told what to wear (possibly excluding them from your establishment) or will want to wear specific clothing (possibly making them enthusiastic about coming to your establishment). Every social group in every part of the world has its own idea of fashion and style. It is up to you as the establishment’s Owner to dictate your “style”. By dictating your Dress Code, you dictate your clientele.

3) Dress Code defines Attitude – People are far less inclined to get into fights while wearing an Armani suit or Manolo Blahnik shoes. First off, they don’t want to ruin their nice clothes. Second, when people are dressed nicely, they take pride in their style and fashion sense. I call it the “Damn, I Look Good!” Effect. People that are feeling and looking good are less likely to want to act bad. It is a rare occurrence when nicely dressed individuals start bar brawls. So why not run an establishment the nicely dressed like to frequent? Heck you might want to open a place with no dress code, where everyone wears sweatpants and tank tops. Good for you! Just remember, more people are willing to dress UP to spend money than dress DOWN and spend money.


If you want a classy, upscale establishment, your Dress Code should be classy and upscale. If you don’t care who walks in the door, don’t bother with Dress Code. IF you don’t want to be a biker bar, hip hop club, or cater to hipsters…make your Dress Code patron-specific. No bandanas might take care of some bikers or maybe no motorcycle boots. No athletic jerseys will cut back on some hip hoppers and no skinny jeans will remove hipsters from the equation.

Some possible options:

No baggy or sagging pants

No oversized shirts

No clothing with athletic team logos

No sandals/flip flops on men

No tank tops or undershirts

No shorts

There are tons of variations, even within this grouping. You may allow shorts, but only with collared shirts and shoes. Or you may allow team clothing during sporting events. No matter what, always keep in mind that you (the Owner/Manager) are the one making the decisions. Don’t let your customers dictate the Dress Code if you want something different. You may receive complaints, but in the long run it will play out in your favor.


Surprisingly, many Owners have a difficult time with this. Some owners consider enforcing or implementing a Dress Code as being bad for business. You did just read the “Why” portion, right? While implementing a Dress Code might cut out some of your intended Patronage, it will also INCREASE the number of people coming to visit your establishment because they want to look good AND YOUR BAR IS JUST THE PLACE TO DO IT. As opposed to the Dive Bar down the street where the clothes on your back don’t matter.

1) What Is It? – What do you want the Dress Code to be? Coat and tie for men? No sneakers? No torn jeans? Sit with your Management Team (or Head of Security) and figure out what you want people to wear. Are you trying to upscale your establishment? That might mean requiring “stylish” attire. Do you run a bar on the beach? Asking people to wear collared shirts might not be the best idea. Throw ideas around and see what works. Remember, you can always change it! What is important is that you point some thought into it and test it out.

2) Write It Down – Yeah, that’s right, put it on paper. And keep that paper by the Entry Door. Better yet, post  it where it is VISIBLE TO ENTERING PATRONS. That way, if anyone asks or complains, your Doorman can point to the sign and say, “Sorry Sir/Ma’am, but it’s company policy that our Patrons dress a certain way for admitttance.” It is also a good idea to post the Dress Code to your website and have it explained (briefly) on any answering machine messages.

3) Enforce It – This is another area where Doormen/Owners/Managers have problems. Once you set a Dress Code, stick to it. That means NOT ALLOWING SOMEONE IN THE DOOR WHO ISN’T DRESS CODE COMPLIANT.  PERIOD. No exceptions. They can go home and change or come back another night. It isn’t The End of The World. I promise. If your Roamers are circulating and they see a Patron wearing a baseball cap when the Dress Code says, “No Baseball Caps”, tell them to take it off. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but let them know they are in violation of Dress Code. Enforce the Dress Code and continue to Enforce the Dress Code. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your Patrons will comply. The Patrons that don’t comply are probably not who you want around anyway.

4) What To Wear and When – You may own an establishment that runs different promotions on different nights of the week. Shift your Dress Code accordingly. What works on College Night, may not on Hip Hop Night and vice-versa. Make sure your Door Staff know what the Dress Code variances are and correctly enforce them!

One of the things that makes Dress Code implementation so great is that it works on a semi-conscious level. People don’t even realize that they are being asked to dress a certain way in order to elicit (or restrain) certain types of behavior or attitudes. Want a raging party? Have people dress in costume. Quiet, jazzy night in order? Coats and ties for gentlemen, dresses for ladies. Test your Dress Code and see where and when you receive complaints and what they are. Then adjust accordingly!

Until next time…

Intro to Paperwork…

Nothing gets people more excited than the word “Paperwork”. And in spite of its inherent thrill factor and the dangers of getting too excited about it…Paperwork must be done.


At the end of a busy night, the last thing you want to do is sit down and file reports or fill out a schedule. Nobody wants to do Paperwork. Nobody. It is time consuming, mind-numbing, and often times confusing.  So why do it at all? The most basic reason is liability coverage. If something goes wrong, is supposedly overlooked, or is  thought to be ignored, a good paper trail can save your butt in legal proceedings. Alternately, if someone needs information or is contesting your nightclub’s polices, a piece of paper elucidating your position can be extremely helpful. Any time a Patron, Client, Partner, or Owner asks for proof of your particular stance on something, being able to produce said proof in a printed form is of paramount importance.

Let’s look at the areas in which Paperwork comes in handy:

Employee Policies

Patron Policies

Hiring and Interviews

Daily Checklists and Reports



Each of these areas NEEDS Paperwork in order for you to do your job more efficiently, keep track of your employees, and let your customers know how you do business. A well-kept filing system with solid Paperwork can save you the trouble of having to rely on your memory or other people’s second-hand knowledge of events. Creating Paperwork also gives your Management Team the opportunity to actually sit down and discuss what you want your Policies and Procedures to be and how to go about delineating them. As a result, you may even learn a little something about your own business!

I will try to make the learning process easier for you by breaking the Paperwork Posts into small, easy to digest segments, each of which will cover a specific area: Forms, Reports, Checklists, etc. This will allow you to decide what Paperwork you need, how to compose it, and ultimately, how to use it.

So, be forewarned, Paperwork is coming and there is nothing you can do to escape!

Until next time….