In nightclub & bar security there are three goals: Protect the people, protect the property, and protect the business. If you’re unsuccessful at protecting those goals, you will be unsuccessful in the nightclub security industry, and unsuccessful in the security industry overall. Protecting the people, property, and business, consists of many aspects: front door security, floor security, and security management.
Before we jump into the basic operations, let’s go over the tools of the trade. Whether it be a formal/informal uniform, depending on the type of establishment you work in, every business should have identifiable uniforms for their security staff. It is important for every staff member to have a flashlight, and the light needs to be easily accessible for you to use. It sounds silly, but effectively using a flashlight in a nightclub/bar can avoid many altercations. Matt Ellison, with Fortress Defense, has a great article on the proper usage of a flashlight. Simply ‘Illuminating your immediate area’ says: “I am here, and I have a tool.” This is the lowest level of force, and is considered the most passive. Always illuminate areas of near people, or unknowns, in order to gather more information about those individuals. Remember, you must shine your light DIRECTLY into the unruly customer’s eyes, and issue a verbal command. This lets them know, I am in charge of the situation, and you will listen to what I have to say. Also, they cannot see you. The individual’s hands will reactively come up to shield their face from the bright beam. This allows you to see what’s in their hands. Over a decade in the industry, and I have carried the same 200 lumen Streamlight tact light. It has saved me from numerous potential altercations. Other great tools to keep on you would be some sort of medical kit. We encounter many issues in the industry, this includes injuries. Guests will cut themselves on glass, or other unexplainable objects. If it hasn’t happened in your bar yet, it will. A simple, quick, and easy to use med kit can aid in slowing down the bleeding until the professional’s arrive.
The front door staff should consist of a ‘muscle and a mouth’. The first person each customer interacts with should be your ‘mouth’, or ID examiner. The mouth is the salesman for what the club has to offer. He/she should have exceptional communication skills, and the ability to draw customers to your venue. The ‘muscle’ would be a larger, visible, secondary front door guy. His main job is to keep eyes on the mouth, directing foot traffic in/out of the entrance, and is also responsible for the cash register, if your venue charges a cover. The front door staff should always prevent a potential problem. If a customer is rude, overly intoxicated, or unruly, it’s simple; do not let them in the business. An unruly guest at the entrance, will be ten times unruly once inside. Always revert back to your goals when questioning yourself about letting a customer in. Are they a threat to themselves/others, the property, or the business?
The floor staff has an equally important position as the front doormen. Their primary role is to facilitate a safe and memorable guest experience for all guests inside, and outside, your venue. Yes, everyone inside should be 21 or older, but we all know adults, mixed with alcohol, turns some of us into children. The floor staff should have the mindset of a customer service representative. The bottom line is, the bar is in the business to make money. The more money the bar makes, the more money the security staff will make, and the safer the guests will be. Floor personnel should be friendly, and approachable, and always visible. Simply moving through the crowd, making yourself seen, is a great deterrent for trouble makers. Situational awareness plays a key role in being proactive, and not reactive, to the stability of the room. Knowing how to read a customer’s verbal and non-verbal communication will tell you a lot about them. Most importantly, and usually highly scrutinized task is how to properly escort an unruly guest from the business. No matter what, never approach an unruly guest alone. It’s great to practice a 2:1 ratio. 2 staff members per 1 guest. This protects the customer, the business, and yourself. Always take note if the guest has friends with them, before making contact. You don’t want to think you’re only escorting out one customer, and four more show up ready to cause trouble. The primary contact should initiate the conversation with the guest, while the secondary(s) observe the surrounding area. Your reaction to every situation is based off the customer’s initial reactions. Depending on the threat level shown, is how you should respond.
Managing nightclub security is no easy task. You are considered the owner in the owner’s absence. You make the final judgement call in every situation. Take the heat when things go wrong, and you will rarely get praised when you do your job right. A skilled security manager leads by example, and sets the standard for everyone else around them. This carries over into frequently training the security staff on days the business is not open, and on slower sales nights. Having a manager with exceptional communication skills, and the ability to train others around them is imperative to the success/safety of the business. Management is responsible for keeping a 1:50 to 1:75 ratio of security to guests. Properly planning your staff scheduling helps avoid a negative ratio. It’s the job of the security manage to know the community events around your area as well. If there’s a concert down the street that lets out around your bar rush, a private party that has been booked in your venue, a local pub crawl, whatever the case may be, the security manager is responsible for knowing these events, and planning accordingly.
Hollywood depicts the term ‘bouncer’ as a tough, aggressive, thug like, character. In all actuality, I personally dislike the term bouncer. It gives off a negative connotation of nightclub & bar security personnel. In today’s society, nightclub/bar security are more than just a bouncer. They are the face of the business. They are communicators, even-tempered, customer service representatives, and should be trained accordingly.
Zachary L. Rugen, Owner and Instructor, Nightclub Security Services