All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.
The first contact that potential customers have with a pub or night-club is at the point of entry. It is the first ‘point of sale’, and the doorstaff are the first members of the venue’s staff that they will meet.
It is important, therefore, that all members of the door team display a professional appearance and attitude at all times. It is here that the door supervisors get the chance to improve the image of the profession in the eyes of the public, or to reinforce the bad reputation that some doormen have had for a long time. The way that a customer is treated at this point can have a significant impact on his or her perceptions of the venue.
It is at the point of entry, the entrance, that door supervisors are required to use their judgement fairly and effectively whilst enforcing both the law and the venue’s policies, and to use effective communication skills when dealing with members of the public.
A door supervisor’s main tasks here are the correct selection of customers for the venue, and keeping undesirables out. Only by this careful selection can the right crowd be attracted, and problems inside be kept to a minimum.
Proper control at the point of entry is important to:-
- meet and greet customers in a courteous and professional manner
- safely control the entry of customers
- monitor the numbers of customers being allowed in
- control and monitor the queue
- search for weapons, drugs and other unwanted items
- deny access to unwelcome or unsuitable people
If door supervisors can control the point of entry effectively it will help to ensure the safe and swift entry of decent customers, at the same time enhancing the safety of the public as well as the other members of staff inside the premises.
It is important, as mentioned earlier, that door supervisors portray the right image here. For example, they should not drink alcohol whilst working or immediately prior to reporting for work, and should not smoke in front of members of the public. They should be clean and well presented, wearing the right dress and the right equipment, and should not wear any unnecessary jewellery like rings, bracelets or earrings whilst on duty. Door supervisors are becoming a much more professional group of people than they were just a few years ago, and the public now expects a different attitude from them. The large, thuggish ‘bouncer’ is very much out of fashion today, and customers now demand a pleasant, professional, non-aggressive approach.
When a door supervisor is at the door of a pub or night-club he should stand in a relaxed, professional stance. He should smile when speaking to customers and talk in a calm but confident manner, displaying a welcoming, open attitude. Standing to the side of the doorway, or holding the door open when a customer approaches makes for a much better reception than being met by a doorway totally blocked by a doorman.
Talking to customers on the way in also gives the door team the chance to appraise their general attitude.
Even a brief conversation can help you to judge whether customers are old enough to be allowed in, whether they are suitably dressed, whether they are under the influence of excessive drink or drugs, and just to assess their attitude and behaviour generally.
Refusing entry to unsuitable people is a necessary part of a door supervisor’s job. Acting on the licensee’s behalf a door supervisor has the right to refuse entry to anyone who is drunk, for example, or anyone whose presence on the premises would subject the licensee to a penalty under law. Each venue will have its own set of rules and conditions of entry.
In fairness to customers, and to help the door supervisors working at the entrance, a notice should be displayed outside the premises explaining what those rules and conditions are and include that they are being recorded, if CCTV is installed. This helps potential customers to assess whether they will be allowed in to the premises before joining the queue, and shows the grounds on which people are likely to be refused entry, showing that it is not just a decision made by a particular door supervisor at the time.
When refusing entry to customers it is important that it be done in a polite and professional way, fully explaining the reasons for the refusal.
Admission may and should be refused for the following reasons:-
- the venue is already full (fire precautions)
- the customer is under the influence of drink or drugs
- he is under age
- he does not comply with the dress-code for that evening
- he either cannot or will not pay the entry fee
- he refuses to be searched
- he is a known trouble-maker, is banned from using the premises or is subject to a court exclusion order
- his attitude is such that his admission would spoil other people’s enjoyment
- his admission would render the licensee to prosecution
- any other breach of reasonable conditions of entry
Some people will insist on arguing with the door staff if they are refused entry, particularly if they are drunk. The reasons for the refusal should be patiently and politely re-explained, but door supervisors do have the right to refuse entry to potential customers for the reasons given, and should certainly not back down just because someone argues with them.
Sometimes it may be suitable to call the manager to further explain the situation to them, and if they still refuse to go away or continue to insist on being allowed in, then the police can be called to move them away from the entrance, if force is required, it is important that only a reasonable amount of force is used. Most people when informed that the police will be called will move away.
If a queue forms outside the venue as large numbers of people wait to get in, then the queue itself should be monitored. Walking along the length of the queue allows the door team to talk to customers prior to entry, again allowing them to assess the attitude of the crowd and individuals in it.
Customers sometimes get upset and frustrated waiting for a long time in a queue, especially if it is cold or raining and they are not under cover. Talking to the queue and explaining the reasons for delays can alleviate the tension.
If at this stage it is explained to someone that their style of dress is unsuitable for the evening, or that they have had too much to drink, they are more likely to accept the policy and their refusal when they first join the queue, than if they are turned away at the entrance having been stood patiently in the queue for half an hour.
Queue-jumping is another aspect which needs to be supervised. People can get very upset if other customers are seen to push in while they wait their turn. If a membership scheme is in operation at the club whereby members who have paid a fee are entitled to immediate entry, then this again should be shown on the conditions notice, so that non-members fully understand why some people are getting in ahead of them. This again helps the door team, showing that they are not exercising biased judgements, and may even help boost membership.
Where a particular venue has a policy of reduced entrance fee before a specific time, then at that time one of the door supervisors should mark the queue, preventing disputes at the door regarding what time a particular person arrived there. The correct supervision of a queue outside licensed premises will ensure the safe and efficient entry for the customers, and help prevent disputes with doorstaff at the entrance.
Door supervisors must ensure that they are fully conversant with the conditions of entry and policies of the venue, and must enforce them fairly, consistently and firmly. Only then will the premises get the crowd it wants to attract, while keeping incidents inside the premises to a minimum.