Bar and Nightclub Industry: Liquor, Security and Identification Standards

The bar and nightclub industry looks so glamorous.  So much money to be made, so much fun and so much….(fill in the blank). Yet when you look beyond the smiles and bright lights, the hospitality industry is a business like any other.  The big difference is that bars and nightclubs sell alcohol, which makes them very sensitive to security and age requirements.

In the world of bar security and bar security issues within the hospitality industry, they include:

  • Chain restaurants
  • Nightclubs
  • Sports bars
  • Casinos
  • Neighborhood bars with entertainment

There are a few questions to consider regarding today’s security and what is expected of them.  This is 2013 and things are different than they were even 10 years ago.  The cocktails are different, illegal drugs are a big problem for bar owners, the staff expectations are different, the laws are different and fake IDs are often of better quality than the real thing.

So – what do you expect from your security personnel?  Please don’t call them bouncers anymore.  The job grew up and the bouncer is no longer wanted.  Trained and certified security staff is the industry standard, not the football player paid in beer.

Is the role of security to escort patrons out of a bar only after an altercation has taken place? Are they responsible for identifying signs of intoxication? Should they be certified in one of the national certification programs for safe alcohol service? Should off-duty police officers be hired? Is a license required for security in your state?

For a bar owner or licensee, serving or selling alcohol to a minor is a bad decision every time.   Fake IDs have come full-circle.  Internet IDs are excellent and can pass through a scanning machine.  Websites like actually reviews fake ID websites and their products such as:

  • U.S. drivers licenses
  • Canadian drivers licenses
  • European drivers licenses
  • High school diplomas
  • College diplomas
  • College transcripts

That’s not even the scary part.  The scary part is the equipment used to counterfeit IDs, is often better than most state agencies use to create valid drivers’ licenses.  How are security staff taught to properly check IDs to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors?  What is reasonable?  What does a reasonable effort look like today when fake IDs are prevalent and may well be scanned through ID scanning machines costing several thousand dollars?

Does the purchase of the scanning machine constitute a reasonable effort?  When a minor gets through security, is served at the bar service, and consumes alcohol, it’s a major problem for the bar, the community and certainly for the minor.  An intoxicated minor who drives a vehicle and crashes said vehicle resulting in injuries costs millions of dollars.  When all is said and done, lawsuits over intoxicated minors cost tens of millions of dollars.

Many bars hire off-duty police officers to stand at the door and check IDs.  That’s fine, but my personal opinion is (and I’ve taught hundreds of police officers in my classes), the choice of using off duty cops is 50:50.  Some take the job seriously.  Others seriously do not.  They want the extra cash they receive for the job and don’t really pay close attention to the IDs coming through the door, because checking IDs at a bar or nightclub is not their ‘real job.’

This article is not about teaching anyone the proper way to check IDs.  This article is about the seriousness of the security person’s position in a bar.  There are far more problems in the bar business today than ever.  Bar owners cannot hire a brother-in-law to watch the door as a favor.  The emotional toll it takes on bar owners is nightmarish.  Horrible, horrible stuff.  I guarantee you that the minor will point the finger at the bar 100% of the time if he gets hurt and will say one of two things:

  1. The bar never checked my ID.
  2. The bar didn’t check my ID properly.

This article is about the job of security and the seriousness with which bar owners must view them.  Training not only in non-violent combat, but training in a certified program that teaches both safe alcohol service and security issues.  Look for a program that includes both of those features.  If you can’t find one, then have security attend both of them.  It’s 2013, and it’s not going to get any easier.  But it sure is a glamorous business, isn’t it?  Right.

Elizabeth Trendowski

Elizabeth Trendowski has been working in the liquor and hospitality industry for 25 years. She has been a restaurant manager, CEO of a wine and spirits wholesale operation, a liquor permittee (holder) of both state and federal licenses, and a leader in her field. Liz has personally trained more than 23,000 servers in responsible serving practices. She was the Founder and President of SMART Programs, a national certification program for the responsible service of alcohol, and one of only three independent TIPS Master Trainers in the United States. She was the Executive Director of the Connecticut Licensed Beverage Association and served on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. She was the President of the Connecticut Hospitality Educational Foundation. She also founded SMART bartending schools (13 of them), which was a certification program teaching professional mixology. Until recently, Liz was an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Haven’s School of Business teaching bar and beverage management. She has taught in private, academic, and military settings and was the restaurant and nightclub trainer for the U.S. Navy Moral, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department in the U.S. and abroad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *