By Doug Radkey | 10/25/2017
Slips and falls, over-serving, theft, and violence are the most common reasons a bar needs very strict safety and security strategies. Bars, pubs, lounges, and clubs in particular, must continuously look at opportunities to reduce risk and liability.
The bar industry is built upon reputation and that reputation can be altered in the blink of an eye. In reality, it only takes a short moment of ‘looking the other way’ to create an unwanted atmosphere that encourages theft and an opportunity for violence, in particular.
As a bar owner, operator, manager, bartender, cook, server, or security personnel, it is your cohesive duty to create and maintain a safe environment and positive experience, not only for your customers, but your other team members as well.
How can we reduce risk and liability while creating a positive, memorable guest experience?
Bar Characteristics – The first thing to consider, is the bar concept. What brand messages are being portrayed? What type of environment has been created? Characteristics that often relate to violence and liability issues include darkness, crowded areas, noise level, competitive games (example pool tables), aggressive bouncers, and temperature/ventilation issues. How would you define your characteristics and what can be changed to improve them?
Drink Safety Policies – Guest harassment and potential danger, often comes with either the quantity of drinks consumed and/or the consumption of ‘spiked drinks’. Ensure that all bar staff have been highly trained (and have ongoing training) on proper serving protocols, signs of intoxication, and potential elements that can lead to ‘spiked drinks’ by other guests. In addition, it’s important to have a ‘safety drink’ that female guests can ask for if they feel they’re in danger, which should be posted in the female washroom indicating what to do if they feel they’re in a dangerous situation.
Install Strategic Cameras – There is plenty of new (affordable) technology that can assist in bar security, theft, and the protection of overall liability. Consider installing night & day 360 degree cameras to capture every moment as it happens. Cover the bar, liquor shelves, dance floors, cash registers, storage areas, hallways, patios, and all doorways with proper indoor or outdoor monitors. With digital storage space, you can now keep hours and months worth of data, to protect your brand from potential litigation.
Lighting Strategies – Dark areas are perceived as an area to start fights, to steal, to spike drinks, or to handle drugs. Ensure that washrooms are bright and that each light bulb both inside and outside the venue, has a true purpose. Is it to create atmosphere, create a sense of security, or a blend of both? Think through each light placement for a better sense of security and to protect both staff and customers.
Staying Alert – Sounds simple, but as time goes on, people often put their guard down and become complacent in their day-to-day activities. Absent-minded owners, managers, and staff can lead to danger for everyone. Provide a known presence, remember there is safety in numbers, and have ongoing meetings regarding theft, security, and guest experiences to keep everyone on the top of their game.
Bouncers – Are they still needed? Yes, they are an important part of a bars security plan, especially in larger establishments or venues with competitive gaming, live music or DJ’s, and dance floors. However, aggressive bouncers can actually lead to violence and security issues. Hire properly trained bouncers, have a security plan in place, and enforce your rules of conduct (which you hopefully have). Also, ensure your bouncers have a positive and transparent relationship with local police in addition to an effective communication plan, if there are multiple bouncers.
Bars can even step up their game by also hiring ‘guest experience officers’ who are visible on the floor both enhancing the guest experience and communicating with security staff of potential issues before they escalate. This is a less aggressive approach and is known to work, in both security elements and an increase in sales through brand perception.
Bars that target younger, less agreeable and more impulsive drinkers are the most at risk. Know your concept, know your target market, and know the consequences of having a poor security strategy. Your reputation and long-term success ultimately depends on it!