This might come as a bit of a shock to the reader, but numerous university studies have shown that alcohol intoxication can lead to an increased probability of violence (1). That doesn't mean going out for drinks on the town or spending downtime at your favorite watering hole has to lead to a violent confrontation either. It does, however, mean it CAN put patrons at a greater risk of having a very bad ending to a great night. So what can businesses do to keep patrons safe? According to the researchers, quite a lot!
One of the first things that should be done when someone encounters a problem is to examine themselves. Bars, nightclubs, large venues, or other establishments that serve alcohol should look first at their personnel and policies when trying to fix a problem. Studies show that security management of a facility is one of the most important factors when determining if violence will occur (2). Training also plays a large role is often most effective when it focuses on deescalation techniques, recognizing signs of intoxication, and information sharing with the rest of the team. These are just some of the questions owners and management should ask themselves:
Do your staff adequately check ID's?
Do you have security present and visible?
Do you keep control of your parking areas?
Do you control patrons entering and exiting your premises?
Do you prevent the congregation of people at your entrance / exit?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, you're on the right track. If you answered "no", you might want to reconsider your approach to that part of your security plan.
The design and cleanliness of your place doesn't just affect your reviews on social media sites. The overall feeling of your location could play just as an important role as your security management can (3). Crowded establishments can lead to agitated, intoxicated people coming into contact with other agitated, intoxicated people. This is not a good thing. This type of environment increases the likelihood of violent confrontation and brings other issues with it. Isolated areas should also be avoided if at all possible. It can be more difficult to keep an eye on problematic patrons and also increases the chance of drugs making their way onto your property. These are some factors to think about when designing or redesigning an establishment:
Do your patrons have to push through crowds in high traffic areas?
Do you allow smoking right outside the door?
Do patrons have to go to isolated areas to visit the restroom?
Do you hear music outside of the establishment?
If you answered "no" to these questions, you're on the right track. If you answered "yes", you might want to reconsider your design to lessen the impact of environmental factors.
There's really no way around it. It's the reason they show up. Patrons come to your business to drink and to socialize, among other things. It ultimately falls on the owner, or the management, to control how their patrons consume alcohol. Over-serving people with alcohol is against the law in most, if not all, states for a good reason. People are more likely to be both suspects and victims if they are overly intoxicated. Also, drunk driving is a serious concern as, according to the NHTSA, almost 29 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes every day (4). That's one person lost every 50 minutes. Ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:
Do your staff serve alcohol to already intoxicated patrons?
Do you allow bottle service (hard liquor sold by the bottle)?
Do you promote specials that lead to over consumption (2 for 1)?
Do your staff consume alcohol while working?
If you answered "no" to these questions, you're on the right track. If you answered "yes", you might want to reconsider your policies related to alcohol management.
The factors discussed here do not account for every issue you will face but they can serve as a starting point. Begin to examine any incident that occurs at your business and ask what you could have done to change the situation. For example, contacting local cab companies or speaking to Uber / Lyft drivers to help clear crowded sidewalks at closing time might help alleviate some of your problems at the end of the night. Paying to put your staff through industry leading training instead of the just the minimum required amount could pay off in the long run.
Regardless of your establishment's current reputation or situation, improvements can almost always be made to ensure the safety of your staff and guests. If you're interested in further reading on this topic, please take a moment and review this publication by the New York Police Department and New York Nightlife Association.
Marcus has served with the Lexington Police Department for over a decade. He has experience with patrol security operations as an officer and sergeant and now serves as a sergeant in the Bureau of Investigations. He currently supervises several units including the Alcoholic Beverage Control Unit, Background Investigation Unit, and the Polygraph Unit.