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.

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Nightclub Security Fundamentals



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!


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.


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.


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.


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…

Nightclub Industry Interview: Will Norton

25415_833785100847_3503041_nName: Will Norton

Official title: General Manager, TONIC Nightclub

How long have you been in the Bar Industry?

I’ve been in the Industry since I was 21 – so 8 years – but I started in the Service Industry at 16. I was a server at Clarke’s Charcoal Broiler, a restaurant in Los Altos, CA. I started working here in town at a local resort when I was 19 and studying at UCSB. Right at 21, I became a bartender there. I started working here at TONIC when I was 23, and I’ve been General Manager for almost a year and a half.

Was the GM position something you were looking for or were you offered the job?

When I was first working here one of the owners took me out to dinner and asked me, “What do you see for yourself?” I told him that when I was 13 years old, I saw the movie ‘Cocktail’ and thought to myself, “I want to do that!” When I came to TONIC and saw how things worked on the Bar and on the Management end, I realized that I really got it. About 6 months after working here I got my first bartending shift. And I became Bar Manager a week after my 26th birthday.

I actually had to compete with about 10 other people for the Bar Manager position. I think the reason that I got the job was that I had the knowledge to do it. I’d worked from the bottom to the top. The GM role was more of a forced hand. The previous GM had moved on to Operations and the owners approached me and said, “So, this is what is going on personnel wise…congratulations, you’re the new GM.” But they also knew that I wanted it.

What is it about the GM position that you like?

One of the pros would be the fact that I am managing the main club for the partnership. It’s nice to know that I’m known for running a successful establishment. Not because I want to be a big shot, but because it is nice to receive recognition for a job well done. But the main pro is the people.  It’s getting to know people, being able to throw a party, and knowing that people are having a good time. Being able to give people a good experience and doing it right is very fulfilling.

What do you think it takes to give people that good experience?

Most of it is attention to detail. Being able to relate to folks on a personal level. Letting them know that you aren’t just there to suck money out of them. You’re there because you genuinely like them having a good time at your place. Developing a personal relationship with your customers is PARAMOUNT. Even though you aren’t partying with them, you’re making sure that everything is taken care of so that all they focus on is having fun.

What do you think you do personally to create that positive experience?

In this job, it’s a labor of love. Be genuine! If you’re a jerk at heart, but try to act nice, you’re going to fail. People can sense that. Being a nice guy and making sure individual complaints are addressed is so important. Sometimes it is as simple as just listening because someone wants to vent.


What would you say are some of the cons of the job?

Most of the cons are the assumptions that people make about you. They think that because you are in the industry and working in a nightclub, that your work isn’t a real job. So they don’t take you seriously. I come in to work every night; this is a job. I just work different hours then everyone else. People give me grief for “sleeping in” because I’m not up at 9 a.m. I’m not sleeping in, I just happen to work late hours. So my climbing out of bed at 1 p.m. is just like your climbing out of bed at 9 a.m. I’m in bed at 5 a.m., so getting that 6-7 hours gets me out of bed later, people!

People really think that it is not a “real” job. Well, I get paid to do what I love. People think I work 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., three days a week, and then go home. That is so not the case. In reality, I’m here during the week, holding meetings, prepping with my Staff. For big events I might put in 80-100 hours of work to make sure everything goes off as expected.

What percentage of your time is spent working with Security?

When I first started here, Security was the one aspect that I didn’t know anything about so I devoted about 50% of my time to it.  I made it my job to know everything from running the Front Door, to ejection procedures, to placement of Security Guards. Now I’m at about 15%. And it is more of a morale thing. Making sure that my Head of Security is checking on his guys and that I am checking in on him. I want to make sure that they are doing well, both from a work standpoint and in terms of their state of mind.

I’m really here as a buffer between the Security Staff and the Patrons. If there is a conflict, I can step in and sort out what is going on. You’ll never see the GM of a club at the Front Door. But it’s something that I like to do. Our Security guys wear black polo shirts and black pants. Having someone at the Front Door, in a suit, relieves some of the pressure from Security. People see the suit and think, “That’s the actual boss, I can talk to him. He’ll help me out” What they don’t realize is that I can also be the “Bad Guy” and say “No”.

How do you think Security has changed since you started working in Bars?

In terms of numbers, we had far less Security Staffed back then. I think that we had maybe eight guys working. We’ll now run double that on a busy night. Our increase in Security is a direct response to increased liability. People are so litigation happy now that we just have to be covered. We want to make sure that we have coverage throughout the club to cut down on anything bad happening. We wanted increased response time to incidents as well. All of the training and certifications that the guys go through now have made a huge difference as well. They’ve helped to change the mentality of the Security Staff.

How do you think the mentality has changed?

Security Staff now realize that they are on the hook as much as the club is should something go wrong. Back in the day, it was common knowledge that Security would physically address conflicts in a much more “hands on” manner. And this is across the board, across the country. It was a mindset and a mentality. Now, if there is any type of physical contact, point of negligence, or even minor slip up, someone wants to sue you. Five or six years ago, Security didn’t have to worry about what happened to the intoxicated Patron who stumbled out the door. Now they do. If that person gets in trouble, we – and Security by proxy – are on the hook. And that has greatly changed their approach to the job.

In addition, Security is now a part of Customer Service. Before they were kind of “seen and not heard” unless something went wrong. Now they are directly involved in making sure that the Patrons are doing well, giving them directions, answering any questions, etc. I encourage all of my Security Guards to engage with the Patrons. They represent the club just as much as my bartenders do, just as much as I do.

Do you think that the public’s view of Security has changed as well?

The public has about a 50/50 split when it comes to Security. ½ of them know why Security is there and the other ½ just see them as the bad guys, keeping them from having a good time. In reality, Security is there to ensure that you have a good time, REPONSIBLY. If every club were full of happy partiers that just wanted to have fun and not cause trouble, it would be amazing. But that’s just not the case.

537585_10151570076323332_1017975242_nHow often do you have to take liability into consideration when doing your job?

All the time. All the time. Sometimes, it’s all I think about. The club will be busy or not be busy. Not much I can do about that besides promote and ensure people a good time. But liability is something you always have to look out for. And it goes for Security as well. If something happens, are we responsible? If there is a fight, are we responsible? If someone is spraying champagne and the dance floor is wet and someone slips, are we responsible? The answer is ALWAYS YES!!!  It is the responsibility of the venue and its employees to provide a safe environment for its Patron AT ALL TIMES!  The lines of liability have increased beyond “someone punched someone else”. Everything can lead to something else. And it’s about seeing those things and stopping them before they happen.

All clubs carry insurance. The more lawsuits you have, the more your insurance goes up. It gets to the point where you are uninsurable. There are so many bars out there that run the same revenue margins that we do. But if they lose one major lawsuit, they’re done. That’s not only a bar closing, but an entire Staff without jobs. People think that clubs make a ton of money. The profit margin might not be what you think in many cases. Many bars are only open 3 nights a week. And they are fully staffed – bar staff, bartenders, cocktail waitresses, expediters, cleaners, security, etc. That is a lot of people to pay. Plus advertising, marketing, inventory, rent, electricity…it all adds up. Without a constant stream of money you can be screwed. A ten-day suspension for a liquor violation will put a bar out of business, just like that.

On the rare occasions that you get time off and go out to bars, what is the one thing you see lacking?

Almost every club that I go to – with the exception of Las Vegas – there is a lack of Security presence. Oftentimes, I am literally not being able to find a Security Staffer when I go out to other clubs. I’d like to think that sometimes their Security is in plainclothes, but realistically I just don’t think that they place their people in visible positions. Consistently, I see a lack of Security presence. I think a lot of clubs are still in the mindset that if Security is visible, people won’t have fun. But you know, if you train your Staffers to be proficient in customer service, people will see them as helpful and not threatening. Letting people know that Security are there as representatives of the club and not just there to tell you, “No.” works really well.  Running a nightclub is a customer service/hospitality-based job.  The only time you don’t let some do something is when it can affect the safety of the Patron or the safety of the club.  And when you do say “No”, you do it in the nicest way possible without antagonizing or instigating a reaction out of them.  Those will come out naturally.

Any advice?

The one piece of advice that I would give to anyone in the Bar Industry: let it be known to the Upper Management and the Owners that you want more from your job. Otherwise they are going to think that you are happy where you’re at and keep you there. Let them know what you want.  Communication is key!


How To Become A Professional Bouncer

A little ways back, we dropped some knowledge about Looking for Work in the field of Nightclub Security. Well, let’s say you pounded the pavement, got yourself a shiny new job, and are slowly making your way up the ranks. Now what? Is there a way to reach greater heights? What are the greater heights? How does one actually become a “Professional Bouncer”?

Before we dig into the nitty gritty, a quick talk about the word “Bouncer”. Depending on where you go, who you talk to, and what you read (cough, cough – meaning this blog), you have probably heard any number of names for Nightclub Security Staffers: Bouncers, Coolers, Muscle, Guest Services, Event Staff. While I prefer the use of “Nightclub Security Staffers”; everyone, everywhere, knows exactly what is meant by the word “Bouncer”. And that is fine with me, as long as people understand that a “Bouncer” is not always just a body in a suit. Our goal here (and I believe it should be the goal of anyone who takes the profession seriously) is to change the general perception of what it means to be a “Bouncer” and slowly get people to realize that a name is just a label: it is the person wearing the label who attaches the negative or positive attributes to it.

“Is there such a thing as a Professional Bouncer?”, you ask.

The answer is yes. Technically, if you are getting paid to do the work, you’re a professional. But I believe that there are “professionals” and there are PROFESSIONALS. PROFESSIONALS carry themselves a little differently, think outside the box, take their jobs seriously, and not only do their jobs but assist others with additional responsibilities at the same time. A true professional is willing to ask Who, What, Where, When, and How. Not just “Why?”

So how does one become a PROFESSIONAL? It’s actually quite simple: do your job as efficiently and professionally as possible.

1) Get Certified/Licensed – In the United States (and many other countries), you need some type of certification to work as a Security Guard. Geting certified not only shows that you take your job seriously, but it gives you the basic training needed to begin to do your job well. If an establishment is willing to hire you without certification you might want to reconsider. Chances are they are cutting corners in a number of places. Not to mention that working without certification is illegal. In addition, should you find yourself involved in an altercation that results in some type of injury – especially without a license or certification – the jury will not look kindly upon you or your actions.

2) Show up on time – Even better, show up for your shift early. It comes back to taking your job seriously. By showing up early, you can find out what is going to happen during your upcoming shift, prep any gear that you haven’t dealt with already, do a walkthrough of the establishment, and check in with your Supervisor or Head of Security. Who would you prefer to work with, the guy who strolls in the door ten minutes late with a cup of coffee in one hand or the guy who is already suited up and ready to roll before the shift even begins? (Hint: it’s the second guy)

3) Dress appropriately and look the part – Amazing how many guys show up with their shirts untucked, dinner stains on their pants, hair tussled, and yawning. The last thing a customer wants to see is a Staffer walking to their post, tucking in their shirt, earpiece dragging behind them. Believe it or not, you are representing yourself and your establishment before you even walk in the door. It doesn’t take that much to be prepared before your shift. And if you aren’t prepared, refer to #2. If you show up early, you can head to the back and be prepped by the time your shift starts.

4) Prep your gear – It is your responsibility to be ready when the shift starts. That means having your flashlight, earpiece, duty belt, lapel pin, and assorted equipment prepped and good to go before stepping on the floor. Buy your own flashlight and batteries and have a back up set. Get your own earpiece. Have multiple shirts, pants, and pairs of shoes. Test your gear before you work and get back ups if necessary.That way, you are never caught without what you need to do the job.

5) Don’t get into fights – It seems ridiculous to have to say it but your job is to prevent fights, not start them. If your perception of this occupation is fights, fights, fights, you are missing the point completely. Your job is to keep the patrons, the establishment, and your co-workers safe. Period. If you are the bouncer who is always “mixing it up”, you’ll eventually find yourself on the losing side of the fight…or lawsuit. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t defend yourself, but if you are starting the problems…find another job.

6) Ask questions – If you don’t know the answer to a question, ask someone else. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. If you want to learn something, ask. By asking questions, you show that you are seeking clarification or are interested in gaining knowledge. Which in turn means that you take what you do seriously.

7) Be patient – No one is perfect. Not your boss, not your co-workers, not the intoxicated patrons, and certainly not you. When things go wrong or when there is yet another problem to deal with, take a deep breath and approach it patiently and calmly. Going into any situation – especially when dealing with an intoxicated individual – with a hot head will get you NOWHERE. Being patient allows you to listen better, be more objective, and hopefully solve any conflicts with a clear head.

8) Keep training – Learn new skills, constantly. Whether it is how to check IDs, learning more about intoxication, studying martial arts, or practicing conflict resolution, any new skills that you acquire will help you become more proficient at your job, which in turn helps you become a PROFESSIONAL.

9) Be a mentor…or look for one – Once you’ve learned some skills, start teaching others. Teaching someone is the best test of whether or not you really understand a concept. You need to have complete understanding of any concept in order to teach. You can’t just ‘kind of get it’ or know it just well enough to get by; you MUST know your subject.

If you are not ready to teach, find someone to guide you. Set your ego aside and admit that you don’t know it all and need some help in learning something new. Mentors allow you to grow and learn while they correct your mistakes.

Finally, take what you do seriously. All the time. Does this mean that you can’t laugh or crack jokes on the job? No. But it does mean that you approach every situation with a clear head, an objective point of view, and a serious attitude. Remember, this job can be dangerous at the most unexpected moments. And unexpected moments tend to occur when you aren’t taking things seriously. Get your head straight and take on the issues you run across in a positive, PROFESSIONAL manner. Behaving like this is bound to get you noticed for all of the right reasons.

Until next time…

Conducting Nightclub Security Interviews, Part 2

Last week we started to discuss the basics of interviewing Security Staffers. This week we’ll get into a little bit more detail.


Right off the bat, you want to be the one directing the interview, not the Interviewee. So make sure that you have your questions ready to go. And when formulating your questions, consider not only the information that the Interviewee will give you – like the basics of who they are and where they’ve worked – but where the questioning may lead.

Oftentimes, an answer to an interview question will give you an idea as to something else you’d like to ask that you hadn’t considered. Conversely, you can ask a question that forces your interviewee to disclose more than they expected. Asking your Interviewee an unusual question can help give you insight to their personality or personality quirks. One of my favorite questions is seemingly pretty straightforward:

“Tell me about the worst job you’ve ever had?”

First off, most people have at least one complaint about somewhere they have worked. There is always something that bothers you about your job. Always. Second, by asking this question – which most people will readily answer – it relaxes your Interviewee. “Wow, he’s asking about that really crappy job, now I can vent.” It’s a little tricky, but getting an Interviewee to relax will allow you to see the parts of their personality that they usually wouldn’t reveal. Especially during an interview! Third, when people vent about things they don’t like, it will give you an idea of whether they will be a good fit for your establishment. Interviewees have actually told me that they couldn’t stand their last boss because he expected them to always be one time. No, really, that happened.


Remember our recent post about Scenarios? Now would be a great time to ask your Interviewee some of those scenarios questions. Think up any number of things that could go wrong during a shift and ask them how they would handle it. Again, the answers can be incredibly revealing. And better to ask now than find out the hard way when something goes wrong.

I generally ask between 3-4 scenarios questions dealing with:

  • Intoxicated Patrons
  • Intoxicated Co-workers
  • Altercations and Ejections
  • Incidents in general

Asking questions relating to behavior is another great interview tool. Have they made any mistakes on the job? How did your Interviewee react to making the mistake? Have they had conflicts with management and how where they resolved? Scenarios and behavioral questions go a long way to seeing if your Interviewee will be the right fit for your establishment.


Besides taking notes on your Interviewees answers, you should also be watching their body language? Do they appear nervous? Flustered? Poised? How did they act towards your receptionist/host/hostess when they arrived for the interview? How did they act after the interview? Pay attention to their non-verbal cues, things like shifting in their seat, avoiding eye contact, or excessive perspiration. If they are nervous to begin with, do they calm down as time goes on? Are they watching you or the clock?


Remember, you are the one dictating when the interview begins and ends. Make sure to let the know that their time is up and that the interview is over. Thank them for coming in and ALWAYS ask if they have any questions for you. The good candidates usually do.

After the interview, review your notes, make reference calls and background checks, and ask your co-interviewers (if you had any) their opinions. And make sure to take note of your Interviewees’ responses to the interview opportunity itself. Have they written you a “thank-you email”? Have they called to expand on earlier answers? Do they have further questions? Make sure that you note these things.

Once you have reviewed things on your end, I would suggest a second interview. You can make this less formal, add additional interviewers, or even do it over the phone. Involve those people who you think are important to the hiring process (ahem, Head of Security) and have a new set of questions to ask. Chances are this second interview will only confirm your decision to hire, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Never feel obligated to hire someone because they’ve made it this far into the process.

Take your time. Even if you need to hire someone ASAP, you still have time to think about your decision. Better to take time on the front end than have to deal with the flak later. Remember, this individual will (hopefully) be with you for a while, make their hire a carefully thought-out choice. Good luck and happy hunting!

Until next time…

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…

Female Security Staffers

One of the first questions I ask when talking to prospective Nightclub clients is, “Do you have any female Security Staffers?”. Nine times out of ten I get a puzzled look and the response, “No. Why would I?”

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret today….

Females who work security are awesome.

I won’t waste your time listing the reasons why people think women should not be working security, because they are ridiculous. Instead, I will focus on the incredible benefits of having women work Security in your establishment

1) Searches – If you are a bar or nightclub that performs any type of physical search at the entrance to your establishment, by law you must have a female conduct the search on your female customers. Plain and simple.

2) Altercations – There is always a small possibility that a male Security Staffer will be accused of some type of sexual harassment should he have to break up a fight between two women. Not the case if you have  Female Staffers. Female Staffers are also less likely to use force in a physical altercation. Most women (notice I didn’t say “all women”) don’t have the “macho” ego is easily bruised by someone calling their mom bad names, hence aren’t rushing to defend their “manhood”.

I’ve also found that most women working Security are more patient and generally have quicker wits (and snappier comebacks) when dealing with tense situations. Sorry guys, them’s just the facts.

3) Calming Influence – Some men (notice I didn’t say “all men”) are incredibly hesitant to respond negatively to a woman breaking up a fight or asking what the problem is, which can be very helpful in defusing situations.

4) I See You – Women are better at spotting the questionable guy at the bar. They can more easily differentiate between a harassing Patron and a guy being flirtatious. Why? Because they’ve been hit on by men way more than you or me. Promise.

5) Bathrooms and Undercover Work – Men cannot enter the Ladies Room. A Female Staffer can go into the women’s restroom to clean up, break up an altercation, pick up the drunk sorority girl, or spot the questionable behavior (drugs) that may be taking place. A Female Staffer can work “undercover”, circulating the bar, watching Patrons, and reporting on anything out of the ordinary without being noticed. It’s much harder for a man working solo undercover to not be noticed – they tend to look like stalkers.

6) Working The Rope Line – Women working the Front Door are an incredible asset. They can control the VIP List with more skill, work the line with more tact, and can sometimes act as a deflecting shield for a stressed Doorman. “I’m sorry guys, my manager (points to the Female Staffer) makes the rules. You can take it up with her.” A great tactic and works amazingly well.

You should strongly consider Female Staffers. They tend to be more confident, less confrontational, more level-headed, and have far less ego. And for all those who say that women can’t handle themselves in a physical confrontation, you’ve obviously never been choked out by a 100 pound female BJJ practitioner. ‘Nuf said.

Until next time…

Looking for work?

Recently, I’ve received a lot emails about employment. A good number of our readers have asked, “What is the best way to get a job in Nightclub Security?” While there is no guaranteed path, there are a few things that one should take into consideration when trying to track the elusive Security Staff gig.


No, no, no. I don’t mean are you legally allowed to work in the United States. I mean are you legally allowed to work in a bar? Many people are under the impression that working Security in a bar or nightclub is as easy as walking up to the door filling out an application and showing up on a weekend night. Until very recently this would be the case, no questions asked. However, there have been a major change in many States in regards to who can work and under what title. Legislation has been passed in many jurisdictions making it a requirement for anyone working in Security to be licensed and trained. Why? Well, to make sure that you have at least an idea of what you are hired to do and to run you through a background check to make sure you are who you say you are.

The first thing you should do when considering a move into any area of physical Security (meaning working the front lines and interacting with the public) is making sure that you have all of the licensing/certifications/papers necessary to do the work. Every state varies and as such you need to take the time to research your State’s licensing requirements and find out what is best for you. A Google Search under ‘Guard Card’ or ‘Guard Card Requirements (insert your State name)’ should give you a good starting point.

This first step is the most important, as many establishments WILL NOT HIRE YOU without a Guard Card or its equivalent.


The big Catch 22 strikes hard in Security. Can’t get Security work without experience, can’t get experience without working in Security. Any job offer for Security, regardless of position is one you should take! Watch the bathroom? I’d love to! Clean vomit off the Party Bus? Absolutely! When looking for jobs, take what you can get. When looking for jobs, take what you can get. When looking for jobs, take what you can get. When looking for jobs, take what you can get.

Get it?


Yes, believe it or not, a resume can be helpful in the Nightclub World! I won’t go into details as to how to write a resume, but keep these things in mind:

Don’t lie about where you’ve worked – Most cities that have a thriving Nightclub scene also have a network of connections within the scene. That means that if you say you worked at X Club but did not, you’ll probably be found out.

Don’t embellish your position – If you watched the parking lot, say so. Don’t say you were Doorman. Again, you’ll get caught once they ask a couple of basic questions.

Check your spelling – No explanation needed.

So, now you have credentials and a resume. What next?


Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it annoying? Yes. Will it get you a job? Maybe. But Craigslist and the newspaper are obvious starting points. Lookie lookie, Craigslist even has Security and Service Industry pages!

I usually don’t suggest making phone calls to Nightclubs when seeking employment. For one, the phone is rarely answered before 12 p.m. And second, the person answering the phone probably won’t have the time or energy to listen to you asking about work. That being said, a phone call can get you some important information: the Head of Security’s name, the Manager’s name, and when they are available. Once you get these tidbits of information, polish the resume, dress nicely, and pay them a visit!

Most Nightclubs are incredibly slow if not completely dead during their first 1 – 1.5 hours of business. While there is no best time to show up, Opening is better than Last Call. When you arrive, have a brief conversation with the person in charge, preferable with the person who’s name you already know from your prior phone call. They probably setting up for the evening, but will at least acknowledge your presence, take a quick look at your resume, and maybe even ask you some questions. It is extremely important that during these few minutes you let them know how serious you are about finding employment, give them a quick rundown of your skills, and depending on your skill set/experience tell them what you are willing to do in order to get the job.

DO NOT: Brag about getting into fights, act like a tough guy/gal, tell the manager how many heads you’ve cracked, disparage other clubs, or boast about being the best Security Staffer they’ve ever met. It’s unprofessional, unbecoming, and you probably end up having your resume placed in the “circular file”


Once you turned in your resume, don’t forget to CALL BACK or make a return visit. If you turn in your resume on a weekend night, wait until Tues/Weds of the following week before calling back. This will give the Manager or Head of Security a chance to recover from the weekend and get to their paperwork. If you return to the establishment, do it the following weekend.

Bars and Nightclubs are fairly insular, closed workplaces. They aren’t the fastest to bring in people off the street to work for them, especially since there are probably friends or acquaintances within their network to whom they’d rather give the shift. But that doesn’t mean a little patience and perseverance won’t get you in the door. Keep at it and keep your head up!

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 5) – Head of Security

The Big Cheese. El Jefe

The Top Banana. Big Boss Man.

Numero Uno. The Chief.

You can call the person at the top what you will, but the responsibility list is long and detailed regardless of title. Most people think of the Head of Security (HOS) in a nightclub or bar as being the biggest, baddest, most dangerous individual in the crew. The person who can step in to pick up the pieces when things have completely fallen apart.

And in some regards this is true. The Head of Security does need to know the most and be able to handle just about any situation. Both more often than not, especially in today’s overly litigious society, being the biggest and the toughest can be a liability if you can’t first start with diplomacy and conversation. Let’s take a look at the responsibilities and chief concerns of the Head of Security.

Your “chief of staff’ must have knowledge of all pertinent Roamer, Floorman, Door Out, Doorman, responsibilities. That means they know how to do it all, from picking up glasses to escorting troublemakers. In order for the Head of Security to be an efficient member of the team they must be proficient in every aspect of security.

Formulation and implementation of  Security Staff Policies and Procedures is one of the keys to the HOS position. The HOS should meet with the Bar Manager(s) and Owners on a regular basis to go over policies and procedures and continuously re-examine existing policy to find gaps and flaws. These meetings are also a good opportunity to voice any concerns, go over upcoming events, and review recent incidents, events, issues.

HOS should also be in charge of interviewing and hiring potential Security Staff candidates, and conducting their initial walkthroughs and training. A disinterested HOS sets a bad example for a Staff. Your new Staffers need to know not only who the HOS is, but that they can look to him/her for direction and guidance. It is important that your HOS feel as comfortable talking to Staff and Management as they are talking to Patrons. Communication is extremely important to this position.

Job performance and disciplinary reviews also fall under the cloak of HOS responsibility. This set of responsibilities places the HOS as liaison between Staff and Management. This bridge between the two “cultures” is important as it helps to not only diffuse any tensions, but allows for more easily mediated conversation if there are problems or concerns. And while Management is often involved, HOS should be the individual talking to Security Staffers regarding their job performance. And while it is uncomfortable to discipline Security Staff, HOS must be directly involved in not only any disciplinary action, but in explaining to the employee why the action was taken.


The HOS should be one of the first to arrive on busy nights and one of the earlier arrivals on a regular night. This is to not only ensure adequate security (after all this individual should technically be able to run the place single handed, right?) but to take care of any pressing concerns for the upcoming night. Upon arrival, it is key that the HOS check in with his Staffers and Management as soon as possible. If posts for Staff are not set, HOS can then take the time to assign them or call for extra Staff should the evening require them.

HOS should be constantly roaming the establishment. (As a matter of fact, HOS Staffers are sometimes referred to as “Super Roamers”) They need to continuously check-in with Bartenders, Servers, Security Staff, Management, and every position that might have issues or concerns. A weak HOS spends their time locked in an office or schmoozing Patrons instead of actually making sure things are running well. The HOS needs to be prepared to insert themselves into any incident, complaint, or altercation scenario. More often than not, the appearance of the HOS will ratchet up the importance of any situation. Patrons know that things are now being handled by Management, not “just a guy in a security shirt”. 90% of the time this will diffuse tense situations, especially if the HOS is level-headed and talks to the Patrons in a calm, collected manner.

As the night progresses, the HOS must also be prepared to meet and greet Law Enforcement (for club walkthroughs or complaints), help the VIP Host with any VIP security needs, and if necessary, fill in any empty Staffer positions. And as if this wasn’t enough, the HOS should also be watching Patrons for misbehavior and excessive intoxication!

Post-shift, it is important for the HOS to meet with Security Staff and Management. Security Staff meetings do not need to be long, but the HOS must find out how the night went, if there were any incidents that were not reported, and most important: HOW THE STAFF IS DOING! This is the only time that the HOS can really get the low down from their Staff and they should make the most of it. They should also take this chance to let the Staff  know of upcoming events, schedule changes, notes from the night, etc. Once they are finished with Staff, they need a quick de-brief with Management to get/give even more information. After these end-of-night meetings, the HOS can then focus on any outstanding Incident Reports, paperwork, or Scheduling issues.

Being Head of Security is an extremely difficult balancing act. It is equal parts customer service, diplomacy, politics, and security. Your HOS needs to know when to step in to a situation and when to let the Staff handle it. The HOS must rely on training and brains first, for if they do not, disaster will surely ensue. Make sure that your HOS is level-headed and patient. Make sure they hold the safety and security concerns of your establishment as their main areas of interest, not meeting girls and being a tough guy. They must also remember that they are a member of a team, not a Lone Wolf out to protect their own interests. A team with a competent and fair leader will keep you protected all the time, every day.

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.


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?