Are door staff getting too big for their boots?

A night you’ll never forget vs a night you can’t remember.  Dance floor vs toilet floor.  We’ve all seen the promotions for a safe night out with moderation in drinking. Although the promotion is aimed at customers being in control of themselves, sometimes they are not to blame. Some forget their night out due to concussion, or end up on the toilet floor because it is a blind spot not covered by your CCTV.

99.9% of licensed trade customers don’t work all week long to go out on a Saturday night, have a few drinks, let their hair down, dance the night away and then get into a fight with a wannabe alpha male, on the front door of a nightclub or start a fight on an innocent bartender, subsequently leading to an arrest and potentially spending Sunday morning down at the local police station.

No.

This is not the intention of the general public. If you are working in a bar you absolutely cannot have the attitude that all customers are idiots. You visit bars on your nights off, are you a idiot? Our customers do not come out for a fight, it is that simple. Sadly, the intention of many door supervisors and bouncers is to get into a fight and throw someone out. Many in fact consider their shift a failure if they do not achieve such a feat over their weekend. In our industry it is common to have many young bar managers, I was a supervisor aged 19. Unfortunately, bar experience does not equate to life experience and all too often I see power trips and innocent customers get thrown out because someone has recently been given a set of keys and a radio. That’s not management material. Your priority should be taking money. You’re running a business not a boxing ring. When somebody annoys me I get much greater satisfaction from allowing them to stay and spend their wages building up my bonus, my staffs’ tips and making my bar look busy!

Throughout my career there have been many incidences where I have taken the door or bar staff’s side and allowed ejections to take place. Many managers have done so but unfortunately, many continue to do so. The common argument is, “He was a [insert insult]!” Ok, very complex argument.  However, your intellectual debate begs the question, “Why on earth did you allow him to gain entry to your establishment?”  Sadly, 0.1% of revellers are in fact idiots and out specifically for a fight. Use your better judgement and deny them entry, thus resulting in a happy and safe night out for the rest of your customers.

It is very rare that an ejection is a customer’s fault. The door staff and manager could have prevented most incidents that occur in the licensed trade. First of all, if these people are such scumbags, why have you let them in? Change your dress code to reduce conflict. Change the music policy so they no longer want to visit your venue.

Assuming that they appear to be decent and have gained entry and been in for a while buying drinks, why would the suddenly experience a Hulk like transformation and cause disruption? Consider the most common instigators of violence. Accidental pushing, barging or knocking drinks over. Yes, that could be your fault.

Assess the layout, do you have a defined dance floor where people can go crazy? Are the tables in the middle of busy areas pushed aside for busy shifts? Is the area immediately around the bar free from clutter? Do you have trays to ensure smooth transportation of a round? If the answer is no then you should accept partial blame. A real key point to consider, how do you control capacity? Do you make sure customers are split between rooms and bars or allow one to remain quiet and one overcrowded?

Evaluate the attitude of yourself and colleagues. Have they come to rely on the door staff to the point that they are incapable of handling conflict? Do they use the phrase, “I’ll get you thrown out!” which in fact instigates an argument all because they want to be served quickly and in turn? (The cheek of these people wanting to hand over their hard earned cash!) An innocent victim is then launched out of your pub because he’s an idiot and the door staff have known the bar staff for two years so they must be right. Bear in mind that many people do not come out alone so launching one out means there are another 8 inside! They’ve got his back, why shouldn’t they? Now you have a 12 man brawl erupting in your entrance because someone said, “I’m next!” Not only that but those 8 people had £50 to spend in your place, now that’s gone. Oh, and the £50 in the pockets of the hen party passing by that decided it looked too rough and went next door instead. Oh, and the £50 in the pocket of the couple that were accidentally pushed as the victim was launched out. You’ve got to ask, is it worth it?

The purpose of your door team is to prevent crime and disorder, not provoke it.  Also, public safety should be number one, not looking hard and having the best story to share at the end of the shift. Licensees should seriously be asking themselves how their recent incidents might have concluded if the door staff were absent. Most of them would have been solved quickly and fairly because nobody actually wants to fight with your bar staff. Nobody purposely barges into people to knock their drinks over. Yes, I accept that there is the odd incident whereby two separate parties will kick off and it is nothing to do with door staff, but how do they react? Are they quick to break it up and protect innocent bystanders, or do they see it as an opportunity to throw a punch? Better still, can they pay attention as they walk round, detect some tension and have a quiet word in their ear? These crimes can be prevented!

Most door staff and managers will be defensive about this subject. They’ll swear it isn’t them causing trouble. Most victims of unnecessary assault will not complain because they will be embarrassed and wonder if it was their fault, after all, they’ve had a few pints. Take one person that has been ejected from your venue and ask yourself this question; is that person ejected from every venue they go to? If they are then you’re right they are clearly a troublemaker (So why let them in?). If they are not ask yourself this; do you eject someone from your venue every week? If the answer is yes, you could be the problem.

Jo Eden

Jo is a multiple Best Bar None winner for Best Nightclub and Overall winner, having been with her company for 10 years and was one of the youngest general managers in her company’s history.

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