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5 Qualities to Look For in Your Bar’s Security Staff

The security staff is an important component of your bar’s staff. Club security or bouncers have long been hired for their larger-than-life size and their physical intimidation factor. Owners hoped that by hiring huge body builders, they would reduce the number of incidents because people would be afraid to mess with them.

That theory is changing somewhat as more bars and clubs look for improved communication and problem-solving skills in security personnel.

Security guards, first and foremost, control who gets into your bar. They must be able to recognize and identify fake identification, keep underage people from getting in, and screen incoming patrons for potential problems. In a worst-case scenario, they help you handle any problems.

An effective bouncer can help you head off incidents before they become big problems. A good security person has

  • Effective communication skills: This idea may be new to some people who have been in the bar business for a while, but the ability to talk to customers, including those who are intoxicated or potentially violent, is the best first step in avoiding a fight or other incident.

    In a worst-case scenario, a guard who has effective communication skills can help discuss the details of a bad situation with the authorities, should the need arise. You need complete documentation of any incidents, from calling a cab for a patron to breaking up a fight, so make sure your guards can recall and accurately record the details.

  • A quick wit: It may seem strange, but having a sense of humor can help diffuse tense situations. Although you don’t want someone who is extremely sarcastic and will alienate patrons or cause a situation to escalate, someone with quick one-liners can often keep things on an even keel. (“Yes, I know the owner too. In fact, he pays me to keep relatives and friends out!”)

  • The ability to make appropriate decisions: Throwing someone out of the bar is not always the answer. A good security guard needs to have other tools in his repertoire. Ask the potential guard about how he’s handled difficult situations in the past. How has he resolved them? Does his solution match your philosophy? Also, ask him about a few scenarios to see how he would react.

    Here are a few scenarios you can use as examples to get started:

    • A patron hands you a fake ID. What do you do?

    • A couple is engaged in a heated argument in the bar. What do you do?

    • A potential patron offers you money to get into the bar without waiting in the long line. What’s your reaction?

    • A patron may be using illegal drugs in your establishment. What do you do?

  • Physical presence: Presence doesn’t mean the guard has to look like he spends 15 hours a day lifting weights and taking steroids. But the guard should have a cool confidence that tells people, “I am in charge. Don’t mess with me because you won’t win.”

    Don’t hire bullies or showoffs. Watch all new security staff members closely for a week. Check them all out with the local and state police. If you have complaints about them from customers, investigate the complaints immediately. If you have to replace them, replace them.

  • A neat, clean appearance: A great security person doesn’t have long hair or lots of bling (flashy necklaces or jewelry). These items can be used against a security person, and a good one knows it.

Unless you have a security background, it’s very hard to train a security person yourself. Retired police, fire, and security people are the best choice to train others and keep on your payroll.

Your name, reputation, money, and liquor license are on the line, so make sure any guards or bouncers you hire properly represent you and consistently act in your best interest.

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