The FNG

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!

START SLOW

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.

ANSWER QUESTIONS…AND ASK THEM

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.

BITS AND PIECES

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.

THE TEAM

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…

Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2015. And hello, 2016! We hope that your year ended well and that the year to come is a healthy and prosperous one.

While we would usually not look back, I find it fitting that this New Year’s Eve video is currently making the rounds. Many of my formative years working Security were spent in the doorway of a nightclub. Looking back on some of those adventures, I only wish that I’d been able to record the interactions that took place. I have to hand it to this bouncer for taking the initiative and doing that very thing. Not only that, but he does his job well and – as far as I can tell – makes it home safely at the end of the night.

For those of you who wonder what it is like to be a bouncer in a club or who don’t realize the constant stream of characters that they have to deal with on a regular basis, here you go. For those of you who look at nightclub security staff with disdain, this might help to give you an idea of the work that they do EVERY NIGHT, and why the job is far more difficult than it appears. Remember, security staffers are people too; so please treat them with some respect!

Another night on the Door

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.

544179_10151862296778332_110240164_n

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!

 

Working Security During The Holidays

I’m not in the habit of re-posting to this blog. As a matter of fact, I think it is one of the bigger cop-outs when it comes to writing a blog – anyone can just copy and paste. However, I also see the benefit to re-posting when there is an issue that bears repeating or needs additional emphasis. This is not a re-post as much as it is a re-write of a post I did around this time last year. It was a popular post, with the most common comment being, “I’ve been wanting to say this FOR YEARS!”.

So, without further ado and with a few minor changes, here we go…

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with individuals of high integrity, strong work ethic, and exceptional character. I have also had the displeasure of working with slackers, layabouts, whiners, and the occasional ne’er do well. (I will now brush off my own shoulder for the use of such descriptive words…thank you.) When you work the field of security, there are many realities that you have to learn to face – or at least should – at an early stage of your career. The main one is this:

YOU MAY HAVE TO WORK WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO WORK!

As a matter of fact, you will probably have to work EXACTLY when you have something else to do! Security is a profession in which your skill set is in demand ALL THE TIME. When most people are doing something else, you are working. Period. This is especially true during the Holiday Season. During the month of December, there are parties, events, parties, and events…and did I mention parties? They will fall on every conceivable day of the week, but usually on weekends. And definitely on the days that you were expecting to do your Xmas shopping. Or that your grandmother is coming to visit. Or on your “day off”.

First, let me clarify that I am not complaining about working wherever, whenever. It’s my job, I do it. Period. Have I missed out on fun, celebrations, vacations, and holidays due to work? Yes. Will I work again if asked? Yes.

EVERY. TIME.

Why?

BECAUSE IT IS MY JOB.

Whenever December rolls around, there WILL be events. And there is a good chance that Security will be needed to work them. Remember, people need to be safe 24/7/365. This is especially true during the Holiday Season, when people are known to get a little “loose” at parties or stressed while shopping. And yet, as soon as Staffers start getting scheduled to work, the whining begins:

“Why do I have to work again this year?”

“Bob always gets New Year’s off!”

“But I have a work party to attend!”

Let me break it down for you a little:

Do you want a job or do you want convenience?

Sometimes your job makes your life inconvenient. You aren’t paid to set your own schedule, someone else pays you to work THEIR SCHEDULE. And there is no convenience during the Holiday Season, especially in the service industry. Don’t like things that way? Start your own business. Actually, don’t. Because when you work for yourself, you work ALL THE TIME…especially during the holidays.

If you want time off for the holidays, ask for it in advance.

Way in advance. Like a month in advance. And remind your manager every week until the time you get off. Why? It’s responsible, mature, and shows initiative. Remember, everyone will want the month of December off. Also, you should realize that there is a good chance that you will NOT get Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s off, even if you ask. If you’re lucky, you might get 1 out of the 3. And in reality, if you’re lucky you’ll be asked to work all three because your skill set is in demand.

Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t want to do.

Sorry, that’s just the way it is. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes you eat the bear … and sometimes the bear eats you”. Sometime you have to work on your birthday. Or your wife’s birthday. Or your boss’ birthday. Or on Xmas eve. Or New Year’s Eve AND New Year’s Day. If your free time is more important than your job, especially when your job entails random hours and unpredicatble situations…you should find another job.

Take one for the team.

No one else can/will/wants to work? Maybe you should step up and show the boss that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be part of the team. I guarantee that if you volunteer to work over the Holiday Season you will get to witness your employer looking simultaneously confused, excited…and impressed.

On the flip side, you can’t act like a whiny baby if you get scheduled to work, you haven’t asked for the time off, and it’s your job to keep people safe. The only thing that acting like that will guarantee is someone else doing your job…once you are fired for not doing it yourself.

So prepare yourself for the Holiday Season. It will be hectic and it will be tiring. The hours will be long, the parties ridiculous, and the lines even worse. Smile, take deep breaths, and remain patient, even when you have to escort drunken Santa out of a bar full of people. But then again, if you didn’t like a challenge, you probably would have chosen another profession…right?

Until next time…

What’s in a name?

Last week I had the pleasure of attending ICON Services Corporation’s security course: Celebrity & VIP Protection. Why? First off, here at Coast Executive Services we do more than just Nightclub Security Consulting. And second, anyone working in field of Security (or any other industry) should constantly strive to expand their knowledge base across all subjects.

On the first day of training, the course instructor (Elijah Shaw) asked a great question:

“How do you define yourself?”

In this particular case, he was talking about Executive Protection Specialists. And that got me thinking about how many in the field of Nightclub Security view and define themselves. For the most of the general public, anyone working in a security role in an entertainment venue is a “Bouncer”. And most individuals working in the field would consider themselves “Bouncers”.

Why?

Is “bouncer” the term people are most accustomed to? Is it the term they are most comfortable using? Or is it just what “bouncers” want to be called? I think that all off these are correct to a certain degree. I also believe that by using the term “bouncer”, we have a tendency to lock ourselves into the stereotype. You know: big, muscle-bound guys who like to be rude and get into fights. If you’ve taken any time to read this blog, you know that I go to great pains to refer to “bouncers” as Security Staffers.

I do this because it is important for us as Security Staffers to get out of the “bouncer” mentality. If you are a somewhat mature, semi-intelligent individual you realize that not only is getting into fights stupid from a self-preservation perspective, but it is also incredibly foolish in terms of litigation (getting sued). Second, I think it is equally important to try and change the way society as a whole views the profession of nightclub security. If people think of you as a bouncer, they will expect you to act as one. It is your job to show them the aspects of the job that they may not always see: customer service, cleaning, assisting with the over-intoxicated, etc.

We define ourselves to others by our titles. And others define us by the names they make up. So when people ask you what you do, what do you want your answer to be? Do you “provide night club security”? Are you a “guest relations specialist”? Do you work in “conflict management”?

Or are you just a bouncer?

Think about it.

Until next time…

Nightclubs and All-Ages Night

The most frightening words any Staffer working in a bar or nightclub can hear – besides “We’re out of beer!” are:

ALL AGES NIGHT

Many Staffers will break out in a cold sweat. Some develop the shakes, and others cry. Why are these words so terrifying? Because any time you bring individuals who are not legally old enough to drink into an environment were alcohol is being served, you are setting yourself up for a liability nightmare. You already know that under-age drinkers will try and enter your establishment on any given night. When you lower your admission age – whether 18+ or all ages – you need to take a variety of precautionary measures.

1) Extra Staffing – You should have an additional 2-4 Staffers on hand for All Ages night. At least one extra to help at the Front Door and some extra bodies to patrol the floor and bathrooms.

2) Bag Searches – All bags and backpacks should be search on 18+ or All Ages night. Since under ager drinkers can’t legally drink, they will often try to sneak in mini-bottles, flasks, or even Ziploc baggies with alcohol. Bag searches are simple as having the Patron open their bag and your Staffer shining a flashlight into it. Just the threat of an bag search will often be enough to make underage Patrons reconsider sneaking drinks in. Another option is to enforce a “No backpacks” rule.

3) Sharpies and Wristbands – Every individual under the age of 21 should have a large “X” drawn on the back of each hand as they  enter the club. The thicker and darker the Sharpie is, the more difficult it will be for the Patron to wash off.

Every Patron over the age of 21 should be given a wristband for drinks. The wristband color should be changed randomly every week to keep Patrons from buying their own and handing them out to their friends. A wristband with your establishment’s name on it works even better.

4) Monitor Bathrooms and Patios – This is something you should be doing anyway, but it is of extreme importance on 18+ nights. Having a Staffer posted outside the bathrooms, doing random bathroom checks can cut down on youths using the bathroom to mix drinks into their sodas or attempting to wash Sharpie marks off their hands. You may want to bring in a Female Staffer to monitor the women’s restrooms.

Patios should also be watched for Patrons attempting to hop fences or gathering in clusters to share drinks with older Patrons.

5) Change your glasses – An easy (though not always cost effective) way to cut down on the under age drinking is to serve non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages in different types of cups. Plastic for soda and everything else in a glass or tumbler. This will also make it easier to spot individuals who should not be drinking alcohol.

6) Monitor for Intoxication – Since they won’t be able to drink in your club, most under-age attendees will drink before arriving. Make sure that your Door Staff are ultra-vigilant when looking for signs of intoxication. All of the tell-tale signs are usually amplified in younger Patrons as they are unaccustomed to the effects of alcohol.

In my personal opinion, All-Ages and 18+ nights are not worth the hassle. But should you make the decision to host one, make sure that your Staff is on its toes and paying attention. It could save your liquor license!

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…