Verbal Management of Intoxicated Patrons
By Ari Bolden
There are several styles of verbal management procedures that doormen use to get intoxicated individuals out of their establishments. Typically, there are two styles to choose from: Hard and Soft. Within these variations, there are several sub categories, each with their own flavor. Ultimately, the approach you use as a doorman should fit your personality and personal style of bouncing.
I remember asking my first patron to leave the bar. Even before I approached, my stomach turned and the sweat began to form on my brow. What if he said “no” and didn’t want to leave. What happens if I stumble over my words? I was tense and nervous. And I was the guy in the authority position!
I found over the years that different styles work for different people at different times. I watched as bouncers would politely ask someone to drink up and wait patiently as the patron did so. I’d see others come across very hard and get the patron to move along within 3 seconds. Was softer better? Was it important to get the patron out as soon as possible so you could focus on other tasks? All these questions haunted me and I looked for the “best” solution.
I finally realized that the solution is not just a black or white answer. A great doorman has several approach and de-escalation techniques within his arsenal. The importance of listening and watching physical body language cues are key to the successful execution of one’s duties.
The Hard Styles:
The Terminator: The fewer words the better for this approach. Since the patron is intoxicated and their mental faculties are somewhat “dimmed” as a result, there is no need to confuse them with big words and long sentences. They are drunk and they know it. You are just pointing it out and letting them know. This approach works unbelievable well if you have a great force presence. A force presence is the shear physical ‘threat’ that some people have. Typically, the larger the doorman, the bigger the force presence they exert on their surroundings (and patrons). “I wouldn’t want to mess with that guy” attitude.
The line: It’s time to go.
Advantage: Saves time. Clear and concise. Not open to too much debate
Disadvantage: Must have a great force presence (either 6’6 260lbs or a face like Lenny “the Guvnor” MacLean). Comes across as rude.
The Commander: This person has a great grasp of the liquor and trespassing laws in their area and isn’t afraid to use them. The commander is confident and sure of himself. He approaches patrons with a stern a yet fair attitude. He deals directly with the person in question and makes sure they know why they are being asked to leave.
The Line: Sir, I am nightclub security and it is time to call it an evening. You have had to much to drink and as a result are too intoxicated to remain on the premises because of section 22 of the liquor act. If you have a coat or other belongings, we will retrieve them now. Thank you for your cooperation.
Advantage: Quick and concise. Your words are such that they are not open to debate (you never said “I think” or “in my opinion”)
Disadvantage: Can come across as cold (rather than rude as in the above style)
The Bouncer: This hard style is based in the old ways of doing our job. Kick butt and ask questions latter. This very hard style gets physical right from the start. That usually entails grabbing the drink from the patron, and escorting them out of the building. A very quick “you’re drunk” might come from the lips of the doorman using the bouncer technique. Then again, it might not.
Advantage: Super quick. Great to use when the patron is so drunk or has pushed the limits to physical intervention (I.e.: throwing a beer bottle or is about to puke all over the place)
Disadvantage: Super old school that makes the doorman look like a thug. Possible legal or job action against someone who uses this approach out of context.
The main advantage of the hard styles is that you get the patron moving along as quick as possible. This allows you to go back and monitor the room sooner. Also, if the police happen to come by while you are standing off watching (soft style), the coppers might write you up for over service and not doing your due diligence. Typically, the police approach to getting a patron moving from a bar is a hard style (they don’t have a vested interest in making the clientele happy.) The main problem with this style is that it doesn’t usually come across as friendly.
The Soft Styles:
The Nice Guy: Being ever so friendly, this approach defers responsibility to someone else. The doorman using the nice guy approach will let the patron know that the head doorman or manager has asked them to leave. “Don’t shoot the messenger” the doorman says. The doorman tries to get the patron to redirect his frustration to someone else, thus creating less personal hassles for the immediate ejection.
The Line: “Hey buddy, my boss has asked me to ask you to dink up and call it a night. He says you are too drunk to be in here tonight. I’m just doing what he told me, so could you please drink up? I know it sucks, but it happens to us all from time to time.”
Advantage: Keeps the patron calm at you. You appeal to his softer side and try to get him to understand it’s just a job.
Disadvantage: Your authority might no be respected because you are too soft. Usually open to debate and the demand to speak with the manager.
The Comedian: Humor is a fantastic weapon for those who can properly use it. People love someone who is funny. This humor might be crass, sophisticated or sarcastic, but the drunk patron appreciates the lighter side of a somewhat “dark” professional attitude.
The Line: Hey my man. What’s up? We got a little problem. You’re a bit too drunk to be in the bar tonight and I am afraid if you stay any longer, you might blow your chance with the 3 sexy ladies who’ve been talking about you at the front door. I mean, who wants to pass out or not be able to perform for those girls huh? Besides, I think you’ve drunk all of our beer. How about you follow me and call it a night.
Advantage: You’ve made a friend. Quickest departure of the soft styles.
Disadvantage: You’ve made a friend.
The Old Timer: This approach is the super laid back and non threatening type of speech. The doorman is soft and understanding with the patron and is willing to spend 15 minutes with someone and walk them out in a surprisingly good mood.
The Line: Evening folks. Sir, I am nightclub security and could you finish up your drink please. I think you’ve had a little too much to drink tonight. I’ll give you a few minutes to finish up. Cheers and thank you in advance.
Advantage: You’ve said everything right and the patron has nothing to get angry about. They have time to gather their things and you’ve been nice.
Disadvantage: You may have to watch them for 10 minutes or more as they finish up, thus taking away from other areas of the club.
The main advantage using the soft styles is that it is good for business. The patron doesn’t feel threatened or pushed. The problem is, depending on the level of intoxication, these “niceties” might be lost and the patron might take advantage of your softer side. Often is the case that the patron will mill about, tying to take up as much time as possible to leave the establishment
Those are just some approaches to getting intoxicated patrons to move on for the night. If you find that your initial approach is not working, try switching to another approach. While it is easy and nice to get our first approach to work from the get go, we know that this job is rather unpredictable and a great doorman can change his tactics before the patron knows what is happening.
If you are mentally prepared, you can move the world!