Bar Management, Bars, Bartending, Management

Best Practices for Hiring and Employing a Bouncer

By Andrew Turnwall


Andrew Turnwall

August 18, 2017

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

From managing crowds to lines to unruly patrons, the bar’s bouncer is a swiss army knife that must be properly tended and applied…

When you hear the word bouncer, a pretty straightforward stereotype probably pops into your head, in one flavor or another. A bouncer is some variety of musclebound, meat-headed thug that solves disagreements with his fists and does very little else apart from keeping people out of your club if they aren’t on “the list.”

In reality, a good bouncer is nearly the complete opposite. Sometimes, it isn’t even a bouncer you’re looking for, but a floor man or doorman instead. Here are some things to keep in mind when you go looking for a security professional at your club.

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More than Muscle

A good bouncer should be more than just muscle. As a matter of fact, muscle is actually pretty far down the list of things your bouncer should be. So, let’s talk about what you need when you think about looking for a bouncer. You’re looking for someone to keep the crowd under control. You’re looking for someone to enforce the rules. Sometimes you’re looking for someone to take tickets or check IDs or collect a cover charge or…it’s easy to see how duties can stack up depending on the needs of the establishment.

If a bouncer begins to have too many roles, they diminish in effectiveness to the point where they can no longer dutifully fulfill expectations.

Are you just looking for someone to keep the crowd from growing overwhelming and turning your bar into a mob scene? Then you need the doorman variety of bouncer. A doorman will collect cover charges or tickets, check IDs, and manage the amount of people allowed into your establishment at once, keeping the crowd inside manageable.

Do you have a larger crowd that sometimes grows rowdy? You’re looking for a floor man. The floor man observes and mixes with the crowd. They dress so as to be easily recognizable by patrons, and easily picked out from amongst the crowd by other employees. They police the crowd, let people know when behavior is approaching inappropriate, and liaise when involving management or police becomes necessary.

Inquire Before You Hire

So, yes, you’ve decided you need a bouncer. Now here’s a few things you should know as you go around looking for one.

  1. While not all places require certification to be a bouncer, certain states do require a license for the job. Even if the state you work in doesn’t require any such training, it’s not a bad idea to require it from your applicants in order to be sure of their professionalism.
  2. Background checks matter when it comes to bouncers. Do they have training? Do they know how to handle conflict safely? Can they be trusted not to drink on the job? Are they going to be a liability that thinks more with their muscle than with their head? It’s so easy for something to go horribly wrong when drunk patrons are involved. You want to make sure your bouncer knows how to handle the situation.
  3. Be absolutely, abundantly clear with any applicant or employee what their role is in any situation. Is a simple stern look from across the bar enough to deter certain kinds of behavior? It can be. Should the bouncer have regular conversations with customers about how that patrons night is going like a manager might? Depends on the club or bar. Does the bouncer have the authority to call out customers, or call the police, on their own, or should they report what they believe to be inappropriate behavior to a manager? Having a specific, limited role keeps everyone working on task, and keeps the night running smoothly.
  4. Preach communication. The better everyone communicates with one another, the better the night goes. The bouncer outside should know what the atmosphere is inside, and vice versa. Managers should be getting reports of any kind of possible incident. Customers need to know when and if their behavior is beginning to cross over from fun to inappropriate or dangerous.

On The Use of Force

It’s not shocking that when most people think of a bouncer they think of people being physically thrown out of places. It happens on TV all the time. Usually the person being bounced lands on their face in the pavement for either comedic or dramatic effect.

Did you know that in most cases that’s pretty illegal?

Depending on the state you live in a bouncer isn’t actually private security. Not in any official sense. What this means is that using physical action to restrain or remove someone from the premises isn’t legal, and opens up the establishment to a lot of different legal repercussions. In most cases (and again this is a state by state thing), a bouncer is treated as an ordinary citizen. This means that the only recourse they have when a patron refuses to leave is to call the police. Bouncers can generally only apply any kind of reasonable force or restraint when used in defense, or when restraining someone in the act of committing a crime.

Beyond the legal ramifications, which are serious, an overeager or undertrained bouncer can cause serious injury, and, even though no official charges were filed, the death of a patron in Westminster, Colorado.

This all brings us back around to what we talked about in the rest of the article. A bar that communicates well, makes everyone aware of their role, makes sure everyone has the tools and time to succeed in that role, and strives for professionalism in all its employees, will likely be in a good place to succeed. Remember, at the end of the day a bouncer isn’t just dumb muscle hired off the street because they look big. They’re valued employees with a purpose, and they should be treated as such.

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