Published On: June 15, 2018

Your nightclub is meant to be a place where patrons come to have a good time. While the majority of your patrons will enjoy your establishment in a responsible manner, others may behave in a way that causes problems for your patrons and your business. This can make it far more likely that you’ll need to use your business owner’s policy insurance coverage. Understanding the risks and knowing how to handle unruly guests appropriately can help you avoid litigation.

bartender making drinks for guests

Your Risks and Responsibilities

Every business owner needs to have business insurance coverage because you may be prone to specific and significant insurance risks. For example, trendy nightclubs located near universities or colleges will attract younger patrons more likely to participate in high-risk behavior, such as the over-consumption of alcohol. Having liquor liability insurance helps mitigate the risks.

Another risk concerns the patrons who bring weapons into your club, or who are in a negative mood and actively seeking conflict.

While you cannot possibly predict what a patron will do once he or she enters your nightclub, you do have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for anyone who is on your business’s property at any given time. This includes patrons, but also your employees, maintenance personnel, and delivery people. Having general liability insurance also helps protect your business.

Risk Mitigation Outside Your Establishment

Having a door person is an absolute must where the goal is to mitigate risk. Depending on your establishment’s size and the type of patrons who frequent it, further security measures such as cameras or metal detectors may be other viable ways to prevent problems. The person stationed at the door should be checking IDs, to ensure underage drinkers don’t enter your club, and should be able to identify and turn away patrons who are already intoxicated. Increased security is a main reason that insurance for nightclubs requires a door person.

Your door person also needs to be able to identify patrons who have caused problems in the past, and who may already have been barred from entry. They should be trained to:

  • Be tactful when dealing with patrons
  • Communicate clearly
  • Inject humor into tense situations
  • Deal with all patrons and situations fairly
  • Ask patrons questions and gauge their suitability for entry by their answers

Although some situations may be unpleasant, being able to prevent problems at the door will be far easier and safer than having issues start inside your club where patrons and employees can be put at risk.

guest filing lawsuit against your bar

Risk Mitigation Inside Your Establishment

Once a patron is allowed entry into your nightclub, there are several ways to prevent problems. The basic premise is to always ensure that those who work in your nightclub are continuously demonstrating professionalism and responsibility when dealing with each patron, regardless of that patron’s attitude toward them. This can be accomplished proactively in the following ways:

Adequate Security Personnel

You should ensure there are always two or more employees inside your nightclub to provide a visible presence and enforce your rules. On busy nights, it’s important to always have enough security to handle larger crowds.

A Non-Confrontational Manner

All bartenders and servers should receive professional training in how to deal with unruly patrons using non-confrontational methods. They should be trained to follow server and bartender rules of conduct, which prevent them from reacting emotionally to an unruly patron. You should also be able to produce documentation that shows that each employee received and completed this kind of training. Some insurance required for bars have incentives for these programs.

Knowing When and How to Refuse Alcohol

Bartenders and servers who continue to supply alcohol to a patron who is visibly over-intoxicated is a recipe for risk. Instead, your bartenders and servers should know the signs of over-intoxication and be able to state their refusal to continue serving alcohol in a polite and professional way.

One way to do this is to state and re-state that your establishment has the right to refuse alcohol to anyone, at any time, without notice.

Making Patrons Safety a Top Priority

Keeping a watchful eye on the goings-on between the patrons in your nightclub is another way to prevent potential BOP insurance problems. Ensure that your employees know when patrons appear to be bothered by another patron. Another situation to watch for are signs that a patron’s drink may have been spiked with a date rape drug, such as overly intoxicated behavior. This will be easy to identify if your employees are actively refusing alcohol.

Any unconscious or otherwise unresponsive patron, regardless of gender, should warrant a call to the police or an ambulance. No patron should be allowed to be carried out of your nightclub by another patron without being stopped and questioned by your door person.

Avoiding Other Dangers to Patrons

Another way to be proactive about how your nightclub deals with patrons is to ensure a business owner’s policy exists and to ensure your establishment poses no danger to their well-being. Slippery floors or delays in clearing tables can quickly lead to expensive and lengthy personal injury lawsuits if patrons slip or break an abandoned glass that cuts them or another patron.

Knowing When to Eject Patrons, and the Use of Force

In some situations, the above preventative measures may not be enough to bring unruly patrons under control, which can mean that a patron must be removed from your nightclub in order to maintain the safety of employees and patrons. Depending on the attitude of the patron, there are different options available to business owners.

Non-Violent Patrons

If the patrons are not behaving in a violent manner, your security personnel should approach the patrons to inform them that they’ve been asked to leave and explain why before requesting their compliance. If they haven’t been violent toward other patrons, security should allow them to time to finish a conversation with other patrons and gather their belongings, but not allow the patrons to continue drinking.

Handling non-violent patrons in a courteous way will prevent an unnecessary and risky physical altercation from occurring.

Other Patrons

If a patron is emotionally charged, intoxicated, or has become violent, varying levels of force may need to be used to eject the person from your establishment. However, the primary methods of control should always be via the use of verbal warnings and the visible presence of security personnel.

An emotionally charged or intoxicated patron may require a light touch on the back to help guide or support him or her to the door, in addition to a verbal warning.

Physical force should only be used in situations where staff members need to defend themselves and protect other patrons from what they believe to be an imminent threat of serious harm or death from a violent patron who is committing a criminal act. Staff members who impose physical force outside of this particular situation can be charged with assault.

The level of force your security personnel uses on a patron should not exceed the level of force being used by that patron. This is considered “reasonable force” in a courtroom situation.

bar patron in handcuffs

Patrons who refuse to leave your property immediately after being physically ejected are trespassing and the police should be called. Not calling the police can place you at significant risk. You will also want to ensure that every employee involved in the situation creates a detailed and handwritten report of the incident before their shifts end. These reports are important for legal protection and bar insurance claims. Management should review and discuss these reports within two days of submission, and the reports should be filed for a minimum of one year.

Regardless of their role, any patrons identified for removal from your establishment that are or become visibly injured should always be offered medical attention via a call to an ambulance or EMS.

Protect Your Investment with the Right Small Business Insurance Coverage

When you have the right restaurant and bar insurance coverage, your nightclub is protected from lawsuits by patrons and is also protected from theft or damage to your assets. BOP insurance can give you peace of mind, as well as leverage to prevent being unfairly accused of wrongdoing.

Getting the best possible coverage for your nightclub begins with choosing the right insurer. Tabak Insurance Agency understands your unique insurance risks, and our experienced team can help you find a level of coverage that’s tailored to your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more.

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