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Reinventing nightlife

Tips for nightlife industry professionals

Security Staff, Doormen, Bouncers – Pick The Right Ones!

In February this year, the internet was amused by probably the funniest door incident ever: Justin Bieber was refused entry to Sankeys, the famous Manchester club, because of his embarrassing dance moves on stage. (By the way, Sankeys has closed in Manchester and moved to Ibiza, to the grief of thousands in the UK. However, it seems like London might be hit by Sankeys in the near future!)

Justin didn’t take it too badly – famous kids are usually not the security staff’s worst problem. Bouncers are the ones to deal with the worst of club-goers; the drunk, drugged, aggressive, row-searching individuals often offer far less will to cooperate than the soft-faced pop star. Testimonies from the real world are more often than not quite grim.

And at the most extreme end on both the bouncers’ and the clubbers’ side is serious violence.

Violent exchanges between bouncers and and patrons

Here, a Hollywood-based promoter talks openly about bouncers’ jobs and reminisces, “I can remember specifically a bouncer being shot and killed at a club called Vanguard a couple years ago”. On the other side, bouncers have been accused of killing a random guy more than once. An uproar was stirred when a British man was killed in Frankfurt – by bouncers in whose club he wasn’t even present – just two years ago.

It’s probably safe to assume that most people’s mental images of a professional bouncer don’t radically differ from the stereotypical tank-bodied, bald-headed males whose service lies mainly in looking intimidating enough to prevent an outbreak of drunken violence. Right?

There are cases of this type brought to perfection. Apparently, the world’s scariest bouncers, with these and many other remarkable visual features, are to be found in Berlin’s Berghain club. The internet discussion about this club’s infamously impenetrable door policy logic, by the way, is off the scale, with a bunch of almost scientific articles trying to decipher the mysterious rules.

Berghain might be able to afford a more-than-usual share of horrified posts on online forums, because its unpredictable and plain scary security staff are part of its dark charm. But most clubs won’t want to build on this kind of public image. On the contrary, ‘good’ bouncers in the common sense of the word will be at the club to minimize the risk of experiencing anything unpleasant Door staff must prevent most tension by judging people’s characters pointedly at the door, and bouncers or floor people are supposed to dissolve any in-club tensions at an early stage. Wouldn’t a woman ultimately be a better option for club doors in that case? Maybe! I’ll come back to that in a minute.


How to hire the right bouncers

So, how do you hire good security staff? Since 2005, bouncers in the UK are legally required to have formal training affirmed by a licence. This alone, however, does not always prevent the wrong kinds of people getting jobs as door staff. Here are a few tips on what to look out for.

A Note on Female Bouncers

There are voices in the business that will explicitly recommend hiring door staff who have a less threatening appearance, or are female. Females now represent more than 10% of bouncers in the UK and they are usually doing fine, although many see them as inherently less fit for the typically manly profession. As we have shown, the skills needed from a bouncer most of the time will be less about sheer muscle mass and more about people-handling skills.

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Female bouncers do say that there is one downside to being female: they actually get more trouble with female clubbers. Male patrons will try to hit on the bouncers but usually in moderation. Females, on the other hand, are apparently sometimes provoked by the authority of another female. But all of that belongs to the set of challenges female bouncers are often well-equipped to face. Another benefit to having female security staff is more ease searching females at the door.

A nightlife security consultant gives us the core bit of advice: “The best bouncers don’t bounce anyone…they manage people.”

These positions are paradoxically quite delicate; door staff find themselves at the possible epicentre of intoxicated violence eruptions most of the time. Handling these well and without resorting to physical force or outright violence requires people-skills and psychology; the bouncer needs to accurately assess the situation quite early on and then use the maximum amount of tact to deal with it.

Club-goers, or ‘patrons’ as they are called in the security jargon, go to clubs to take a step outside of their ‘usual’. And the stakes are high. Being kicked out of a club would be humiliating for anyone. Plus the influence of alcohol and other drugs impedes people’s ability to solve issues as calmly as they probably would outside of the clubbing situation.

“If the patron is taken aside and discreetly told about the decision, the likelihood of an aggressive exchange is reduced. There is nothing worse than having a big bouncer-type approach a young man, in front of his friends, and tell him to leave. After embarrassing this young man, you are guaranteed to get a verbal barrage of insults and foul language that may escalate into a physical fight.”

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Just like policemen, their job is at its core about dealing with individual people. It is clear, then, that floor men need to be aware of basic social psychology, as well as being trained physically.  The Independent mentions how bouncers took over the “managing drunk people” business in recent years: “A few years ago the police would have been called to sort out the fracas – now, any trouble is dealt with by bouncers. They now constitute a second police force.”

Are we right? Have a story that proves us wrong? Let us know what you think! The comments section is open to opinions and stories of all kinds, and yes we love hearing from you.


Janar Merilo

CEO & Co-founder of GateMe. Technology-guru. Kitesurfing and nightlife fan.


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