Bar and Nightclub Employee Safety

Working in an environment where alcohol is distributed to large group of people carries with it inherent risks. Between physical altercations, broken glass, bodily fluids (blood, vomit, saliva, etc.), slips, and falls, there is a higher than normal chance that you will be injured on the job if you are not paying close attention to your surroundings.

This week, we’re going to focus on how to keep yourself, your co-workers, your Patrons, and your establishment much, much safer.

FIRST AID TRAINING AND FIRST AID KITS

First and foremost, do you have First Aid/CPR training? If your answer is no, follow this link immediately and sign up for a course, preferably the most advanced course possible. Why? For one, it could save the life of someone you love. People have heart attacks, choke on food, and injure themselves, EVERYDAY. No harm in taking a few hours out of your life to help save a life. In addition, you are learning a valuable skill that can come in handy in any number of settings, including your work place.

Second, do you have a First Aid kit on your worksite? You should – by law. As a matter of fact, you should have multiple First Aid kits to be extra safe. I have never worked in an entertainment venue where there was not a minor injury from broken glass. Know where your kits are located and keep them stocked with fresh supplies.

FIRE DRILL!

How many of you know the location(s) of your Fire Extinguisher(s)? Better yet, how many of you have performed a Fire Drill in your establishment? Call a Staff meeting and let everyone know where the First Aid kits/Fire Extinguishers are and how to use them (the Fire Extinguishers). A mock drill to evacuate your building in case of fire/gas leak/melee is never a bad idea. Know your exits and evacuation routes BEFORE you need to use them. Have a good evacuation plan and know how to communicate with your Staff during and after an evacuation. And no, yelling “FIRE!” is not a good idea.

EMERGENCY LIGHTS

You can buy cheap Emergency Lights just about anywhere. A small investment on the front end can save you millions – not to mention lives. Exit signs are great, but well-lit Exits are even better! Buy some Emergency Lights for your entire venue. Believe it or not, the power does go out on occasion!

STAFF ESCORTS

The safety and security of your Patrons is paramount, but your Staff should also feel secure. Implementing an “escort” policy is an excellent idea for any establishment. No server, cocktail waitress, hostess, VIP host should ever leave the premises without an escort to their car. And this is regardless of how they may feel about it. The establishments in which I work DO NOT ALLOW female Staffers to walk to their cars unescorted.

In addition, Security Staff should always exit the venue at the end of the night in groups of two or three to guarantee their safety upon departure. Assaults on Security are not unheard of after-hours. A moment or two to get your colleague to the car will make everyone feel more secure and protect them from possible attacks. Remember the Buddy System?

Take some time to go over safety procedures with your employees. It could save your life.

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…

What’s your policy?

In the next couple of months we will be discussing the Employee Manual and why it is important for your place of business. But before you can put together a Manual, you have to decide on your Policies and Procedures. Most nightlife establishments have policies for their Bar Staff and Management, but surprisingly few have a set of Policies and Procedures for one of their most important groups of Staffers: SECURITY

Some Managers would scoff at the idea. “We know exactly what to do if we have a problem!”, they say. To those individuals I say, good for you and best of luck. You obviously have things well under control….(cough, cough, sarcasm, sarcasm). But seriously, Policies and Procedures cover far more than things like problems. So for you all-knowing Managers, here are a couple of scenarios for you:

  • A fight breaks out, one of your Security Staffers is injured and a Patron is taken away in an ambulance while threatening to sue. What are your policies regarding Incidents, Threats, and Interacting with Law Enforcement?
  • A heavily-intoxicated Patron approaches the bar with a bleeding foot and claims that she cut herself on some broken glass. What do you do?
  • Two of your Security Staffers don’t show up for two nights in a row. They claim that they, “Told the Head of Security a month ago that we wanted time off”. What’s your reaction and what do you tell them?
  • Your Head of Security catches one of his Security Staffers in the act of selling drugs to a Patron. What should his response be and what to you do next?
  • One of your Cocktail Waitresses claims that she is being harassed regularly by some of the Security Staff. How should you proceed?

I’m going to guess that some of your responses sounded something like, “Hunh……?”

Every state in the U.S. has laws dealing with each one of these incidents, whether in regard to disciplinary action or legal action. Do you know what they are? Do your Policies reflect that knowledge? Do you have Procedures to follow those Policies?

No?

Why not?

From a legal standpoint, you will can yourself in very hot, very deep…water, should you not have a set of printed Policies and Procedures. So, sit down, grab a pad of paper and start to think of the things that your Staff need to know and how they need to do these things.

Some things to keep in mind in terms of Policies and Procedures:

Clocking In and Out

Time Off requests

Incident Reports

ID Checking and Dress Code

Handling Altercations

…and so on and so on and so on.

Take your time to decide the Who, What, How, When, Where, and Why of your nightclub’s Policies and Procedures. Not only the legal approach, but how you want YOUR Staff to deal with things. And, if possible, consult with your establishment’s attorney. You have one of those…right?

Until next time….

Post-Work Debriefing

The bar has been cleared, the tables put away, the equipment stowed. Time to go home, right?

Not so fast…

Regardless of how tired you are, there is one item of business that should be taken care of: The Post-Work Debriefing. This is an important part of the night from both a personal and professional standpoint. On a personal level, you want to make sure that you and your Security Staff are doing well. On a professional level, you want to make sure that your Security Staffers are happy. How do find out if they are doing well and are happy? Ask.

The Head of Security should always run the Post-Work Debrief. This way, all information is relayed directly, not second or third hand. It is not absolutely necessary for the Manager to be involved, as he/she should be meeting with the H.O.S. after the Post-work Debrief anyway.

TOPICS OF DISCUSSION:

  • EQUIPMENT – Anything broken, faulty, or gone missing? This is the time to report the problem and take note. Too often broken radios are placed back into their chargers without any notification. Need batteries/stanchions/clickers? Speak up!
  • INCIDENTS – Though ALL incidents should be reported as they occur, minor incidents (doors left open, Staff disputes, Law Enforcement chats) are often forgotten UNLESS you talk about them the same night. Make sure to ask your crew if they had any incidents and talk about them. If necessary, incident reports can be written up at this time. On numerous occasions I have asked how the night went and been deluged by incidents that no one had bothered to mention.
  • PERFORMANCE CONCERNS – The Head of Security should use some of this time to point out any issues or concerns regarding the Staff in general. Are people moving from their posts without notification? Incorrect Radio protocol? Bring it up and hash it out.
  • UPCOMING EVENTS – Remind the crew of any and all upcoming events, whether the next night, next week, or next month. It helps to plant a seed in their head and preps them for what is to come. No one likes to show up to work and be surprised with the news that the club is booked for a group of MMA fighters with an open bar, a fraternity social, or ten tables of bachelorette parties.
  • STAFFING ISSUES – If the Security Staff is having problems with non-Security Staff employees, this is the time to air those grievances. Having problems with the Promoter? Bartenders allowing their friends to stay after Last Call? Talk about it. An informed H.O.S. can pass this information on to the Manager. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO GRIPE ABOUT OTHER MEMBERS OF YOUR SECURITY STAFF. Any intra-Security Staff concerns should be voiced directly to the H.O.S. separate from other workers.

These meetings serve as a good outlet for your Security Staff. They bring issues to light and often elicit remarks or suggestions that might not normally be conveyed. It generates conversation and communication, two things that are key to running a tight ship. The more you and your co-workers talk about the work environment and its issues, the better the chances that these issues will be taken care of in a prompt manner.

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.

WHY DISCIPLINE?

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.

WHAT TO DISCIPLINE

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.

HOW TO DISCIPLINE

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…

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.

WHY DO I NEED PAPERWORK?

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

Scheduling

Incidents

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….