What Does A Bouncer Do?

What does Security actually do? A lot of different things, many of them unseen by the general public. Here’s a little breakdown for you – with liberal doses of humor. If you can’t laugh at life once in a while, what’s the point? A tip of the hat to those who work in the field, some of whose stories I am using in the examples below.

  • Take your fake ID and give it to the police so that you avoid the ticket
  • Tell you to put your high heels back on so you don’t step on the broken glass…or into the puddle of vomit
  • Break up the fight your boyfriend is getting into because, “No one talks to my lady.”
  • Break up the fight your girlfriend is getting into because, “No one looks at my man.”
  • Keep you from climbing over the wall so you don’t slip, fall, and lose your teeth
  • Break up the fight you and your boys started because you, “Roll deep!”
  • Saving you and your boys from the fight you are losing because your opponents “Roll deeper.”
  • Carry you out the door and pour you into a taxi so that you don’t wake up in the drunk tank at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday
  • Ask you to stop dancing and climb down from the bar so that you won’t fall…and people won’t notice that you apparently forgot to wear underwear with your mini-skirt
  • Pull you away from the MMA fighter who you drunkenly informed, “I could probably kick your ass”
  • Take you out of line and put you on a bench so the police officers watching the line won’t arrest you for being drunk in public
  • Inform you prior to entry that your winning team’s sport jersey should probably not be worn to the losing team’s bar
  • Pull the creepy guy off you who insists that he knows you…even though your name is Tina and he says it’s Nancy
  • Patiently listening to you while you drunkenly insist on talking to your “…good friend Dave, the manager”, even though his name is Steve and he has no idea who you are
  • Try not to laugh too loud when you cut in line and say you, “…are going to spend mad cash up in here”…and it’s $2 drink night
  • Allow you to vomit on us so that you don’t vomit on the police officer
  • Deny you entry for over-intoxication now, so that we don’t have to carry you back out the door in five minutes
  • Kick you out of the bar for “motorboating” the cocktail waitress…whose boyfriend happens to be the Head of Security.
  • Take the beer from your hand before you walk out to the sidewalk with it and into the waiting arms of Law Enforcement
  • Nod and smile when you drunkenly inform us that our mothers are “women of loose morals”, and then guide you into the waiting arms of Law Enforcement
  • Thank you for telling us that our club is the “worst place ever” and let you know that the biker bar next door would appreciate a person of your candor

Believe it or not, the guys working the door and inside the club are there for your safety and security. They want you to have a good time, preferably one that doesn’t involve ejection of bodily fluids, physical violence, or verbal threat. Give ’em a break, huh?

Until next time…

Just walk away…

Every weekend, at least one person on a Security Staff gets yelled at. Sometimes by management, more than likely by a Patron. And every weekend, at least one Security Staffer will react in the wrong manner. The saying, “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen” is an apt one for the field of Security, especially if one is working in a Nightclub or Bar. There will be numerous occasions during which you will be mistreated or taken for granted. And guess what? You have to take it.

I can already hear the detractors:

“No one talks to me that way!”

“Did you hear what he/she said?”

“I refuse to be disrespected.”

Well, believe it or not I am on your side. I don’t think anyone should be disrespected, talked down to, or insulted. But there are ways of dealing with individuals who behave badly that DO NOT involved getting physical – which is unfortunately how most Security Staffers react.

For example, if someone were to say something less than flattering about your mother/sister/grandmother/brother there are two things to consider…and no they are not how hard to hit the person and where will they fall after you’ve hit them.

1) Is what the person saying true? If it is true, then the announcement being made is probably common knowledge. And while possibly embarrassing, everyone already knows so it’s no big deal.

2) Is what the person saying a lie? If it is, then what do you care?

Now I am being a bit sarcastic and callous. But honestly, if 3rd grade insults still offend you, you need to seek employment in another field. Keep in mind that the person insulting you is upset (for any number of reasons), probably intoxicated (which in my book often leads to approximately 3rd grade behavior), and definitely not cognizant of the fact that yelling insults at a 250 lb. person who’s job it is to keep the peace is probably not the best of ideas.

So, what is one to do? How do you calm down or eject someone who is hurling insults?

First off, don’t take it personally. Just don’t. Again, if you can’t handle insults, this is not the line of work for you.

Second, try a little empathy. Put yourself in that person’s shoes: their boyfriend/girlfriend just left them, they were just fired, and the bartender refuses to serve the any more alcohol. That is an equation that when added up equals not too good behavior. Sometimes a smile and a nod (even if you don’t agree with their argument) can go a long way to soothing someone. EVEN if they have said something completely out of bounds.

“Yessir, I appreciate that you think my mother is a lady of loose morals, but I’m still going to have to ask you to leave.”

The key with empathy is that you want the person to think you are on their side. They can call you all the names they want as long as you nod and lead them out the Front Door.

Third, if they are truly upset, you have to try and disrupt their train of thought.



“Excuse me!”

Say it loud and get their attention. Then…

“Can you slow down a little? I want to try and help out, but you’re speaking too fast for me.”

Now the Patron thinks you’re listening – whether or not you really are – and may even slow down and try to explain themselves. Again, nod, smile, and (possibly) continue leading them to the door. (Granted, if this is a possibly violent situation a different set of rules apply)

Now, you’ve managed to slow someone down, listened to their complaint, and possibly managed to get them to the exit without them even noticing. You know what you do now?

Walk away.

No, really. Hand them off to the Front Door staff and walk away. You have now managed to remove the object of the Patron’s anger – you – from the equation. And you probably haven’t laid a hand on them. I have seen people literally stand slack-jawed as they realize that the person they wanted so badly to vent their anger at is gone. Conversely, I have seen people become incredibly upset. But guess what? They are now outside of the establishment and bad behavior outside is more likely to be noticed by Law Enforcement and dealt with far more harshly.

There is one caveat: Let the Front Door staff know WHY you removed the person. At least they then have the opportunity to soothe nerves in their own way, in their own time. And finally, don’t try to get the last word in. A simple smile and a, “Have a good night.” will make you feel like a champ as you WALK AWAY.

Until next time…

What’s The Scenario?

A local Head of Security and I were discussing a variety of topics the other day and the subject of training came up. And while many security teams in other fields – Executive Protection being one – practice scenarios on a regular basis (or at least they should), I have rarely seen a Nightclub Security Staff working any type of training drills. Some of my readers might argue that scenario training is unnecessary in a nightclub environment. “You see the same situations all the time, why train them?”

Easy answer: Proper Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance

Any field of work that requires an immediate or urgent response should do some type of scenario training. Scenarios will show where there are gaps in response time, failures of action, failures of inaction, overreaction, and any other issues. Many people, when placed under some type of pressure, will freeze up. The pressure could be something as basic as your boss asking you an unexpected question or as terrifying as having to respond to a choking child. In an fluid environment, filled with intoxicated individuals, having the correct response can mean the difference between life, death, a lawsuit…or vomit on your shoes. Training can help to minimize dangers and shorten the response times to a variety of incidents.

A basic game of question and answer is a great start when building Scenario Training. Think up 3-5 scenarios that your crew might run into on a given night. During the night or at the pre/post shift meeting, throw out a scenario and ask what your Staff would do. You can ask them individually or have them brainstorm as a group. Then, break down and evaluate the answers. Point out conflicts with policy or procedure and ask for other options or solutions to the scenario. And always remember to give them what your response would be. You might be surprised to find that your crew has come up with responses you had not considered.

Another possibility would be to actually put your crew through some physical Scenarios. Place them in their respective positions, grab some extra Bar Staff, and act out the Scenarios you have imagined. The mere fact that your crew is being tested will usually bring up their heart rates and adrenaline level – even if they know it is only a Scenario. Run the Scenario multiple times with different people in each position. Observe their reactions, take notes, and review what just happened. Discuss aspects of Situational Awareness that they could use to their advantage.

Scenario evaluation should be an opportunity for you to positively reinforce your crew’s actions. If you find yourself constantly berating your Staffers, it might be a case of your original training not being up to par. Evaluate yourself and your skill set as well. Put yourself in the mix once in a while. Don’t ever think that because you are the one presenting the problems, your skill set is miles above that of your trainees. Again, you might be surprised what you discover about yourself..

The one type of training that I would avoid with Security Staffers is physical ejections. While it is necessary to discuss how to physically remove someone from an establishment, showing things like wrist locks, arm bars, and chokes WILL open you up to liability. The Use of Force continuum is one that should be discussed and re-enforced regularly, but there are plenty of ways to move a person besides being hands-on. Aside from the risk of liability, the mindset of some Security Staffers will prevent them from working an ejection Scenario safely. They will be more likely to act out against their other Staffers, “Oh yeah, well you’ll never take me down! Try it!”, and this can lead to sparring and other ridiculous behavior. These are training sessions, not tough guy sessions, and anyone that can’t work in an environment of learning is probably not someone you want working for you to begin with. Scenarios are used to train your brain, not your brawn.

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 2) – Floormen

Anytime an establishment has a security force, there are bound to be at least one or two Staffers who get to stay in one place all night long. Whether a guard at Buckingham Palace or the security guard at the Mall Information Booth, these individuals generally don’t leave their post and are tasked not only with security, but with the answering of questions and giving of directions. And while many find these posts to be boring, they are an integral part of any Security Staff.

STATIC POSTS (aka Floormen, Boxmen, Halls and Walls)

These Security Staff members are also tasked with basic club security. They generally remain in one place, with the specific goal of watching a designated area of a bar or nightclub. They may be casually dressed, with a shirt reading “SECURITY” on the back, or they may be upgraded to a suit and tie.  Static Posts are key because they are able to get a good “feel” for the crowd in their particular area and are able to maintain a circle of protection around places like stairwells, entrances and exits, or dance floors.

Skill Set and Responsibilities:

  • Have general knowledge of a Bar/Nightclub’s Policies and Procedures. That means reading your establishment’s Security Manual! (You will notice that this is a recurring sentence, and for good reason)
  • Monitor Patrons for signs of intoxication or aggressive behavior.
  • Lookout for hazards to Patrons and Staff, including: broken glass, bottles, chairs, tables, and any other possibly dangerous obstructions. While Roamers generally perform this function, a Static Post should be well aware of any hazards that may get in the way of Patrons, especially when posted in front of Entrances or Exits.
  • Monitor male-to-male behavior like rough-housing and possible early stages of altercations. This should included talking to any individuals who appear to be causing trouble. Static Posts are tasked with “calling in” to Roamers with any problems that they might see in their area.
  • Interdict and de-escalate verbal and physical altercations between Patrons. Generally, this is as back up to Roamers.
  • Securing all remote Exits. Make sure your Static Posts are supervising of all doors, entryways, and exits in their area.

Static Posts are like Air Traffic Controllers: they direct traffic and watch for trouble. These posts should be placed on raised platforms as often as possible. This is important for several reasons:

1) It gives them a good view of your entire establishment. Being above the masses allows them to spot trouble deep in the crowd, where Roamers might be able to see.

2) It lets Patrons know that someone is watching. No one wants to misbehave when they are being watched.

3) It is helpful when they are communicating with Roamers. Static Posts can use flashlights to pinpoint problem spots or guide Roamers to trouble.

It is a good idea to move Static Posts around every 30 minutes or so. This allows them to stretch their legs and keeps them from getting too comfortable and complacent. If necessary, Static Posts may also be tasked with the final “Push” at the end of the night in order to get Patrons out of the establishment.

Next time: Door Outs

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 1) – Roamers

The Bar and Nightclub Industry has changed dramatically in the past 10-15 years. Between liability and loss prevention, ABC regulations, and the introduction of social networking, the business is becoming more and more detail and Patron oriented.  Different promotions on different nights of the week, Facebook invites, Twitter, FourSquare, and 18+ nights all add up to increased workload as well as an increase in the need for job-specific training.

There was a time when all Security were “Bouncers”. But the advent of the upscale lounge and high end nightclub has changed this as well. Now, more than ever, people want to know your title when they walk in the door. Doorman, Floorman, Roamer, VIP Host, Host, Promoter…can anyone really keep track? And ultimately, does it matter? I would argue that while the title is NOT always necessary to the position (whatever that position may be), an understanding of the basic job duties that particular title holds IS always necessary.

In this next series of posts, I will cover the basic Security Staff positions and their various responsibilities. (As always, feel free to make any changes you wish in accordance with the type of bar or club you run)

ROAMERS (aka Floormen, Floaters)

These Security Staff members are tasked with basic club security. They generally circulate throughout the venue, acting as a visible security deterrent. More often than not, they are casually dressed, with a shirt reading “SECURITY” on the back.  Roamers are in many cases the most important members of your Security Staff. They are the cops on the beat, in touch with the vibe of the crowd and usually the first to arrive at any incident or disturbance.

Skill Set and Responsibilities:

  • Have general knowledge of a Bar/Nightclub’s Policies and Procedures. That means reading your establishment’s Security Manual!
  • Lookout for hazards to Patrons and Staff, including: broken glass, bottles, chairs, tables, and any other possibly dangerous obstructions. This is really the Roamer’s main responsibility as they have a better view of the Club than your Doorman or VIP Host.
  • Circulate throughout the venue, evaluating the conduct and attitudes of Patrons and looking for inappropriateness and misbehavior. They should be on the look out for early signs of intoxication or intoxicated Patrons.
  • Monitor male-to-male behavior like rough-housing and possible early stages of altercations. This should included talking to any individuals who appear to be causing trouble.
  • Interdict and de-escalate verbal and physical altercations between Patrons.
  • Attend to the needs of over-intoxicated or physically ill Patrons. That might mean carrying out an intoxicated Patron or holding a woman’s hair back if she is ill.
  • Attend to general cleanliness of the establishment. This means cleaning up spills, broken glass, and yes, bodily fluids if necessary.
  • Securing all remote Exits. Not every Exit will be visible from every part of the establishment. Make sure your Roamers are checking that doors are closed and locked, and that access to Exits  is unimpeded.
  • Monitor  for overcrowding and traffic flow. All Roamers should be carrying flashlights and directing traffic in crowded areas (Hallways, Bathrooms, Dance Floor, Stairwells) to prevent fire hazards.
  • Monitor behavior, line cutting, and traffic flow in Restrooms. Many fights begin in and around bathrooms. Keeping an eye on this area of the establishment will not only porevent altercations, but will cut down on illicit drug use.

Roamers should work in pairs when at all possible and should ALWAYS be equipped with a radio. In some instances, a Roamer may be used for initial set-up of your establishment: placing chairs and tables, brooms and dustpans, and any stanchions needed. They may also be tasked with the final “Push” at the end of the night in order to get Patrons out of the establishment.

Next time: Static Posts