Bar Security and Safety for Owners
Running a bar can be a fun and rewarding business, but it also comes with its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to security. Bars are often crowded, noisy, and full of people who may have had too much to drink, making them vulnerable to various threats and risks. As a bar owner, it’s essential to take bar security seriously to protect your customers, employees, and business.
More than 10% of the assaults reported nationwide each year occur at bars and nightclubs, making them one of the highest-risk locations. And that doesn’t include other threats like theft, break-ins, vandalism, burglary, and more. Lots of people and plenty of booze can be a recipe for disaster, but only if you ignore it. Be proactive in your protection, and you can reduce if not eliminate the likelihood of both property and violent crime.
The alternative? Do nothing, and face the consequences that include financial loss, litigation, damage, loss of reputation, and ultimately, fewer customers. Strong bar security is clearly the best path.
Essentials of Bar Security
Bar and nightclub security can be broken down into four categories:
- Digital Security Measures
- Staff Training
- Customer Safety
- Physical Security Measures
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Digital Bar Security Measures
The digital revolution has moved us from an analog and mechanical world to a digital one. Every business uses computers and the internet to varying degrees in day-to-day operations. It’s fast and convenient but comes with security risks. As a bar owner, here are a few digital security measures you should use.
- Use a dedicated, secure point-of-sale system. Digital POS products allow you to take orders, manage tabs, collect payments, track tips, set staff and customer limits, take reservations, verify age, track inventory, run sales reports, and much more. Examples include TouchBistro, Epos Now, and SkyTab.
- Keep software updated. Every program you use—from accounting software to POS to scheduling—is vulnerable to hacking when left out-of-date. A hacker gaining access to one system may then have access to all of them.
- Back up important data. If you save financial records and other sensitive information to the cloud, you’re susceptible to attacks from ransomware and other malware. And if you don’t use the cloud, your records are still exposed to natural disasters, hardware malfunction, theft, and more. Protect your business by backing up important data in at least two places.
- Use strong passwords. And change them regularly. Hackers can crack a weak password in seconds, so ensure everyone is using a strong password of 8 or more characters, including upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Use a reputable password manager like Dashlane or Bitwarden, and get in the habit of changing them at least every 3-4 months.
- Train staff on business cybersecurity threats and best practices. The web can be a dangerous place. Onboarding and ongoing employee training should include how to keep themselves and your business safe while online. Check out the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for resources.
As the owner, you can’t do everything and be everywhere at once. You need employees, and you need to delegate to them. To protect everyone, your training regimen should include these security measures.
- Review how to identify a fake ID. Accepting fake IDs, even inadvertently, places the business at risk of being fined or shut down. As the owner, you need to make sure everyone who interacts with customers knows how to spot a fake. A good rule is to check the edges (real IDs will have a smooth, uniform edge), but you can find specific tips by searching “how to spot a fake ID in [your state].” Make sure your employees have responsible server licenses—the training includes lots of information about accepting IDs. Provide extra training by showing examples of fake vs. real IDs. And provide clear steps to take when a customer tries to pull a fast one (respectfully refuse service, notify the rest of the staff, and document the incident).
- Establish procedures for how to deal with various security situations. Don’t wait for a data breach, intoxicated patrons, armed robbery, or barroom brawl before deciding how to handle each one. Determine procedures beforehand, write down the steps, and ensure each employee is aware of the process and where to access the documentation.
- Encourage employees to report suspicious or unusual behavior. They are your eyes and ears on the front lines. Learning to recognize suspicious behavior is a wonderful skill to have in any customer-facing industry, as it’s the difference between being proactive and reactive. But remember that watching for suspect behavior is not and should not include problematic actions like racial profiling.
Bar security goes beyond just you and your staff. Your customers have a reasonable expectation of being safe while in your establishment, to say nothing of your legal obligations. Your efforts to protect your patrons should include these basics.
- Make sure everyone is of legal drinking age, for their safety and yours. Serving an underage individual can have major consequences for you and them. When in doubt, ask for ID.
- Monitor how much everyone is consuming. As a purveyor of alcohol, you have a legal obligation to refuse service to anyone who appears or you suspect is intoxicated, even if they arrive that way. Teach your staff how to deal with drunk customers and how to cut them off politely but firmly.
- Provide safe transportation options. This should go without saying: drinking and driving is a huge no-no. When a customer has had a few too many, offer to call them a taxi or ride-share. If possible, go out with them to ensure they get in the vehicle safely. Depending on your location, clientele, and budget, you might want to consider a dedicated bus or shuttle service for taking customers to and from your bar.
- Be on the lookout for pickpockets and predators, as both will show up anywhere people congregate. People frequently let their guard down when out drinking with friends, and that leaves them vulnerable. You should consider implementing a phrase or gesture that allows customers to discreetly inform staff that they feel threatened or need assistance.
- Remove criminal elements immediately. Implement a zero-tolerance policy for illegal narcotics, aggression, harassment, verbal assault, and anything else hazardous. Remove it immediately when it’s discovered.
Physical Bar Security Measures
Your bar is a physical location, so it needs physical security measures like any other property. Security tips that work for any business will probably work for yours, too. These include, but are not limited to:
- Install secure locks on all windows and doors. A bar is an attractive target for thieves and burglars due to the presence of cash and alcohol. Don’t make it easy for them to gain access. If you’re located in a high crime area—or your place is remote and isolated—fortify the entry points with bars, gates, and/or security glass for an extra layer of security.
- Keep cash in a safe or offsite. Cash is still king for thieves. Invest in a strong safe for the office and store cash in there overnight. Or get in the habit of removing cash from the premises every night after closing. Remove the temptation.
- Restrict access within the bar. Some areas are for employees only, like behind the bar. Other areas might be for you and your managers only, like the office. Clearly designate public, employee, and private areas so you can quickly identify and address unauthorized access.
- Consider hiring security guards or bouncers. If your budget allows it, consider hiring bouncers for business hours—they help keep the peace, check IDs at the door, and deal with unruly customers—and security guards for nights.
- Invest in high-quality business security cameras. These are a powerful deterrent for anyone marking your property and a valuable asset if a crime happens. Cameras allow you to keep an unblinking eye on your customers, your employees, and your property.
For even more tips, check out our business security checklist.
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Implementing proper security measures is critical for every bar owner. By following the tips outlined here—such as installing Deep Sentinel business surveillance cameras, training staff, and prioritizing customer safety—bar owners can reduce the risk of incidents occurring and create a welcoming and secure environment for everyone.
It not only protects your business and patrons but also shows that you take their safety seriously. And that’s a positive differentiator in the modern world.