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…

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…

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?

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