Doormen and security staff are commonly referred to in the bar and nightclub industry as “bouncers”. The stereotypical image is a towering tough-guy with a dubious past and a cold demeanor. The bouncer lets in who they want and kicks out anyone causing trouble
This image is a gross oversimplification and it is often plain wrong. To be successful, modern bouncers have to be more than just hired muscle. They are a valuable member of your front of house team, ensuring the safety of staff and guests. If your bar or nightclub is considering the use of on-site security here’s what you need to know before hiring.
What does a bouncer do?
There are a few different jobs that club security typically performs. These duties depend on the size of the venue, the number of patrons, the amount of alcohol served and the resulting security risks.
One of the primary jobs of a bouncer is to act as a doorman. This job’s aim is to mitigate a threat before it affects patrons and co-workers.
The doorman will:
- Check ID’s to ensure everyone is legal age
- Disallow entry for those already intoxicated or acting erratically
- Keep out those who do not follow the club’s dress code
- Ensure that patrons are paying the cover charge
- Check for and confiscate weapons and drugs before they make it inside
- Monitor in and out foot traffic
- Patrol the area outside the club for threats
Floor security teams work inside the club ensuring that situations inside do not escalate. Floor security protects patrons and co-workers from threatening and obnoxious guests.
Their primary duties include:
- Making sure contraband is not in anyone’s possession
- Helping bartenders to avoid over-serving guests
- De-escalating confrontations between patrons
- Asking unwelcome guests to leave
- Physically removing guests who refuse to leave
- Helping drunk patrons find safe transportation home
- Contacting local law enforcement when necessary
Often times, in more casual or smaller venues bouncers are also required to help with front of house and back of house duties such as collecting used drink containers, cleaning tables, changing kegs and bartending.
Do you need bouncers?
If you are deciding if you need a bouncer or a security team, evaluate your venue’s potential for violent confrontations. Would your business benefit from having trained personnel to deal with these situations? Remember, it’s not necessarily the number of violent situations that require a bouncer but the types of risks present to patrons and staff members.
Most security duties are non-violent, non-confrontational enforcement of the house rules. It is possible that duties such as checking ID’s and asking over-served guests to leave can be handled by existing staff members, such as bartenders or managers.
But if the venue is prone to fights, large crowds, the presence of drugs and weapons, it’s probably asking too much of a typical service industry worker to step in and mitigate these types of situations. The visible presence of a bouncer or security team could also be enough to discourage things from getting out of hand.
What are bouncers allowed to do in a situation?
While the laws vary from state to state, bouncers and private security must follow a strict code of conduct while on the job and dealing with customers.
Bouncers are not afforded special privileges when it comes to the use of physical force.
- They can ask a patron to leave
- They can call the police
- They can physically remove them from the premises but cannot use unnecessary force
- They can strike a patron only when threatened, using appropriate force in self-defense
Keep in mind that your bar or nightclub could be sued if a bouncer initiates violence, injures a patron or performs illegal activities. Lawsuits for injuries caused by bouncers are not uncommon and can be costly to your business, even if you’re found not to be at fault.
What are the qualifications to be a bouncer?
Since bars and nightclubs are private property, in most jurisdictions there are no specific qualifications required to be a bouncer. As mentioned above, they are not afforded any special rights or privileges to confront patrons.
However, when hiring security personnel for your bar or nightclub, there are certain useful qualifications that you should consider.
- License — Also called a “guard card”. Each state’s requirements for security guards is different. However, states such as New York and California require unarmed security guards (bouncers) to meet certain qualifications to receive a guard card
- Training — Before hiring security guards they should have some experience and training to deal with unruly people effectively. Part of the guard card requirements is to receive training in proper use of force and CPR/first responder training.
- Clean Criminal Background Check — Professional bouncers are responsible for the safety of your patrons. A clean criminal history ensures that the people you hire for club security don’t have issues with violence, assault, substance abuse or theft. All of these behaviors will create problems for your business.
- Negotiation skills — Keeping a cool head is extremely important for a bouncer. Belligerent people are inclined to attempt to provoke bouncers. But in the world of smartphone cameras and YouTube, all eyes are watching. And ultimately, the club will be viewed as responsible for your bouncer’s actions. Hire bouncers who can talk to unruly patrons to de-escalate a situation before it gets out of hand.
- Physical strength — No one will deny that physical strength is an advantage for a bouncer. The ability to effectively break up fights or restrain a threatening person keeps patrons and staff safe, including security staff. Physically strong security guards are a deterrent to would-be troublemakers without having to escalate an interaction.
- Sobriety — Club security teams are responsible for everyone’s safety. This requires bouncers to be of sound mind and body. Drug and alcohol use on the job impair motor and thinking ability. Keeping drugs out of your club will be more difficult if your security staff are abusing illegal substances themselves.
- Observation skills — It’s important for security personnel to always be on the lookout. Situational awareness is key, such as the ability to step in before a heated conversation comes to blows and helping the bartenders know who’s been over-served. This will go a long, long way to keeping your club safe.
Will a bouncer change the image of your bar or nightclub?
Some bar owners may be concerned that the presence of bouncers will make their club seem unfriendly or uninviting. This is a possible outcome if security is highly visible and proactive. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate this concern.
Security can be plain-clothes and assist with other bar duties. Collecting empty bottles and glasses, and wiping down tables allow bouncers to remain “undercover” while maintaining a presence throughout the bar, in close proximity to guests.
On the other hand, if your club has had an ongoing issue with violent or unruly patrons, the introduction of a visible security presence can both prevent more volatile situations and make average patrons feel safe.
Ultimately, how visible and proactive you want your security team to be is a choice that should be made in the best interest of the comfort of your club’s guests.
Bouncers perform a number of duties in a bar or club, from checking ID’s and breaking up fights, to helping with front-of-house. Whether you need bouncers is a question of maintaining safety for your guests and other staff members. Bouncers do not have special rights in the eyes of the law. However, dedicated, professional security personnel trained to deal with violent or unruly guests can be very beneficial in higher-risk environments.
When evaluating candidates to join your bar’s security team make sure they are right for the job. A current guard card is necessary in states that require it. A professional, sober bouncer that can de-escalate situations and bring order to a chaotic event is a valuable team member that helps make staff and patrons feel safe.
This article is part of the free restaurant management library provided by Rezku, a leader in hospitality technology and services since 2012. Rezku has experience and services to help bars and nightclubs achieve more, from payment processing to waitlist management, tableside wireless ordering, VIP loyalty programs and more.
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