Bar Safety & Security Starts at the Door Expert Article

Whether a particular person should have been permitted to enter a bar, nightclub, or other venue where alcohol was served can be relevant to a host of legal disputes involving assaults, vehicle crashes, and other injuries.

In this article, liquor liability expert PJ Romanos will address the standard of care for alcohol-serving establishments to screen potential patrons for age, visible intoxication, and other potentially serious safety and security threats.

Bar Bouncer Doorman Security Expert Witness

The Role of Bouncers / Doormen for Bar Security

The bouncer or doorman is the first line of defense at many bars and nightclubs. Their actions, including who they allow to enter and their ability to identify and mitigate potential threats, are critical in maintaining safety within the confines of the bar as well as for the public.

In the context of a forensic investigation, the issues most frequently evaluated relative to door operations include:

  • Properly checking/scanning IDs
  • Refusing entry to anyone who is visibly intoxicated
  • Consistently enforcing other security policies and procedures

The extent to which an establishment follows industry standards or established policies and procedures can create a compelling argument for or against liability under specific circumstances.

Standard of Care for Checking IDs

The industry standard accepted forms of identification are state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards, passports, alien registration cards, and U.S. active-duty military ID. However, the individual business has some discretion to determine which forms of ID they choose to accept.

To effectively check IDs, doormen should be equipped, at minimum, with a flashlight and an ID checking guide. The flashlight can be used to closely scrutinize the ID. The ID checking guide is a guidebook that contains sample IDs from all across the US and Canada. Establishments in some markets may need to keep an international version on-hand.

Once the doorman asks for the ID, they must have the patron remove the ID from his/her wallet so that a closer inspection can be made. They will then determine if the ID is valid, by thoroughly inspecting it and asking questions of the patron. If they have any doubt that the ID is valid, they can ask for a second form, use the ID checking guide to verify the ID authenticity, and may refuse entry or service if they are unable to confirm the validity of the ID.

If a club allows patrons under the age of 21, they should have an established process to distinguish those who are of legal drinking age versus those who are not. A common method is to issue bracelets to those who are of legal age, but service staff should still ID patrons if they are suspicious that an individual is underage. The service staff should use the same steps as the doorman when checking the ID’s of patrons.

Common breakdowns in ID checking policies & procedures:

  • Lack of diligence when inspecting IDs. Security should have the guest remove the ID from their wallet or purse and then security should carefully inspect the ID for alterations, its authenticity, and if it is in fact the person pictured in the ID the one who presented it to security.
  • Allowing entry of individuals based on the bouncer’s personal biases or acquaintance
  • The venue is understaffed and unable to adequately screen all patrons
  • Lack of employee training in the identification of fraudulent ID’s

Refusing Entry to Anyone Visibly Intoxicated

The standard of care for the hospitality industry is to refuse entry to intoxicated persons. Not only is it unlawful to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, but having intoxicated people on the premises can lead to a variety of problems.

When it comes to screening for impairment, some states and municipalities require doormen, other security staff, and service staff to be trained in a responsible service of alcohol class such as TiPS or ServSafe.

These classes establish a scientifically informed foundation for identifying signs of impairment such as loud behavior, using inappropriate language, glassy eyes, slurred speech, stumbling or swaying.

Common breakdowns in screening for intoxication at the door:

  • Lack of training in intoxication recognition
  • Understaffed or lack of a doorman
  • Better understanding of policies and procedures along with knowledge of local laws

Enforcing Security Policies and Procedures

At times, the mere presence of bouncers or security personnel at the door may be enough to deter any unacceptable behaviors. However, the development, implementation and enforcement of policies and procedures for screening patrons and ensuring underage and intoxicated people are not served is necessary for success.

Once a security plan is developed and rolled out to all necessary personnel, the security team needs to be held accountable for their adherence or lack thereof to these policies and procedures. Management and ownership need to take an active role and have enough floor presence to monitor the performance of their teams.

Management should  address any inconsistencies that are observed while walking the floors. It is also important for the security team to keep an active and current log of any incidents that may occur throughout a shift.

Some of the areas that the doormen/security team needs to be mindful of during each and every shift include:

  • Screening for weapons and aggressive behavior
  • Excluding known offenders
  • Consistent and universal enforcement of dress code
  • Identifying aggressive or inappropriate behavior before it escalates

Common breakdowns:

  • Lack of professional training
  • Communication amongst security staff and service staff
  • Lack of a security plan

While bouncers/doormen have other responsibilities beyond screening patrons, security truly does start at the door. By not allowing entrance to anyone that may pose a threat to the overall safety of the establishment, a minimum standard of premises safety and security can be maintained.

Bar & Nightclub Security Expert Witness Investigations

The factors discussed here will be considered by an expert when evaluating whether an alcohol serving establishment met the standard of care for reasonable security. Robson Forensic is equipped to provide the full range of expertise required towards the resolution of claims and litigation involving the abuse or misuse of alcohol and other drugs. Our firm includes experts in toxicology, dram shop, premises security and police practices, all of whom are nationally recognized leaders in their fields.

To discuss your case with an expert, call us at 800.813.6736 or submit an inquiry.

Featured Expert

Paul Romanos, Jr., Food and Beverage Operations & Dram Shop Expert

Paul Romanos, Jr.

Food and Beverage Operations & Dram Shop Expert
Paul “PJ” Romanos is a food and beverage operations and liquor liability expert with over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. PJ has worked for some of the most… read more.


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