Bouncers are often the most visible aspect of security in a nightclub or bar. Bouncers in city-clubs often stand out as the huge guys dressed in black. Bouncers and doormen are an important part of a comprehensive nightclub and bar security plan. However, employing overly aggressive bouncers and doormen with little training and inadequate procedures can contribute to the Death of a Nightclub.
The doorman or door-host is the first person the patron sees and sets the tone for the style and attitude of the club. Some clubs employ burly-looking guys who set the tone of the “Barbary Coast” days in San Francisco where bothersome patrons would be forcibly thrown out into the street. Other clubs use well-dressed ladies and gentlemen to make patrons feel like they have entered a nightclub with dignity and class.
The true function of a doorman is to provide access control for a busy nightclub and screen those that enter. A doorman is traditionally the person who stands at the door and checks IDs to assure that each patron is of age to legally enter the establishment and is dressed appropriately. In some urban clubs, doormen use metal detectors and pat downs procedures where the format attracts mostly young people and has an expectation of finding weapons. Another function of a doorman is to prevent admittance to those that are obviously intoxicated or who have previously caused trouble inside the club. Most clubs have an “86” policy where objectionable patrons are barred from returning to the club for some designated period of time. Depending on the club, a doorman can be used to collect cover charges, tickets, or direct patrons to tables.
In addition to normal doorman duties, some nightclubs use the door staff to monitor patron conduct on the sidewalk as well as inside the club. The nature of this additional task can lead to confrontations with aggressive nightclub patrons if not handled professionally. Obviously, more training and experience is required as the doorman becomes more assertive and begins to assume more security-like duties. Most busy nightclubs begin to have problems at the door when too many duties are heaped on to an inexperienced and poorly trained doorman.
Bouncers are an enigma. The term bouncer presents an image of a brawler who will break up fights and forcibly eject obnoxious patrons. Bouncers are often portrayed in movies as tough, thug-like scrappers who love to fight, like in the movie “Road House”. Many nightclubs foster that image by hiring over-sized ex-jocks, wrestlers, or martial artists to handle drunken or out of control patrons. Usually these bouncers have little experience and receive no real formal training in criminal or civil law that they must apply. See my web page Bouncers Need Training. In a crisis, these inexperienced bouncers will be forced to rely on their own common sense and instincts to solve a problem. This can be a scary concept.
The duty of a bouncer is to monitor the crowd to see that everyone behaves. The goal should be to see that everyone has a good time, but within established limits. The best bouncers are personable, friendly and can talk to patrons without appearing threatening or intimidating. The best bouncers don’t bounce anyone…they talk to people. The mere presence of a well-trained bouncer will remind the patron that their conduct is being scrutinized and that their patronage can be revoked.
A better job title for a bouncer might be floor man or floor person. In the UK you often hear the titles of Head Doorman or Cooler. A nightclub is about the business of providing hospitality where people can come to relax, unwind, and have a good time. A good floor man will manage the patrons inside a club and will see to it that no one becomes overly aggressive and spoils the party. A well-trained floor man will circulate throughout the club, be highly visible, and be easily identifiable as a club employee.