Keeping Your Bar Safe Starts at the Door

Front door security is everyone’s business. Recent tragic nightlife events highlight how vital it is for your trained staff to control who enters your establishment and stays. Here are some tactics that start at the door to keep your employees and patrons safe.

Prevent Risk

Always have all staff observing the entrance, especially the late-night entrance; your staff needs as much patron information as they can gather before allowing patrons access to your establishment. Controlling the front door with trained staff is one of the best ways to prevent the entry of unwanted and dangerous customers. Do not let staff allow known problem customers to enter your business; that’s one of the most important cardinal rules you can enforce.

Ongoing Training

Controlling entries is continual and ongoing by all employees that observe access points into the business and while on premises. Train your staff to inform patrons about house policies that allow entrance refusal to impaired and underage individuals and other legally defensible reasons to deny entry. Interacting with the public goes beyond simple observation, as you and your employees should question all patrons before and during service to establish their well-being.

When checking identification, staff must continually be alert and not be distracted at the front door. Only trained personnel should be at the door tasked with checking IDs. Refusing entrance to visibly impaired patrons can be tricky with possibly impaired experienced drinkers, and your employees need to know how to handle these situations. Patrons have a need and right to feel and be safe. It requires additional ongoing security training efforts on behalf of the business’s employees.

Gain Trust

Some businesses in the industry are reluctant to enforce stringent entrance policies at the door because of the perception it creates with their patrons. However, most people would rather feel safe and are willing to go through a vetting process that applies to everyone at the door.

That initial engagement with potential customers can be an enormous asset. Patrons love questions such as, "How are you doing tonight?" or, "Welcome! What’s the special occasion tonight?" These initial greetings open the door for your staff to communicate friendliness, help awareness with the patrons, and establish the patron’s intent and their state of well-being. The employee’s smile helps patrons to feel that the staff is approachable.

Safety awareness is the most important aspect of customer service. Your staff’s professional ability to communicate with patrons creates the opportunity to reduce potentially harmful actions from occurring. Train your staff to look for unwanted patron behaviors.

Video Cameras & Lights

One of the tools a business can use is a video camera system. Cameras are a great investment and will show consistent house policy enforcement by your employees. Cameras also allow you to have an impartial record of what’s occurred, which can serve as evidence should the need arise.

bar security
(Photo by Scott Webb, Pexels)

Bright lighting in entrance areas is excellent for crime prevention and checking identification, and preventing possible violence. Post a house policy sign in a prominent, well-lit area explaining that management reserves the right to deny entrance. Your house policies should clearly state that individuals can be refused entry for any illegal activity. Staff should also refuse entrance to those who are visibly intoxicated, not dressed properly, or display unwanted or aggressive behavior. Other reasons can be added to the house policies as long as they don't infringe on a customer's rights or violate federal, state, or local regulations. Security, hosts, and staff should also be trained to be aware of potential problems that may occur outside and in the surrounding perimeter of the business.

Removing Problem Customers

If you need to remove more than one aggressive problem customer simultaneously, do not simply relocate them to the immediate outside of the business. If possible, have them leave by different doors and keep them separated. You’re attempting to avoid an immediate escalation that is relocated to your front door, creating risk for you and your other customers.

Your security staff is also responsible for striving for a safe environment by enforcing a controlled closing time for customers leaving late at night. Staff needs to be continually aware of the possibility that within the crowd there may be problem customers who are not readily obvious but who will take advantage of late-night closings that are not well monitored and controlled.

Documentation Helps

Have a manager’s notebook to record refusals of entry, why they occur, and when. Also, keep track of those patrons you have had removed from the premises or barred from coming back.

The consistent use of a logbook can show a pattern of evidence that creates a creditable record of fact for potential jurors. The logbook helps demonstrate proactive business practices and demonstrates the business is working to avoid issues with known customer problems.

Engaging with the Police

Make sure staff are trained to know what to do when calling the police for assistance. What information do your employees need to provide regarding potentially dangerous situations? Run through the possible problem scenarios with your staff on identification, situational awareness, which parties were interacting inappropriately, and, importantly, whether your staff asked the police, "What do you want me to do?" Your staff needs to be trained and empowered to make safe decisions regarding entrance enforcement into the establishment. They also need to know the criteria for denying patrons, and those reasons must comply with all federal, state, and local laws. When employees are entrusted with these safety action decisions, they impact the business and the owners as the employee acts on behalf of the establishment. Employees' ability to understand preventable opportunities for danger helps them promote safety.


Regulars will trust staff and bartenders and will be more likely to entrust themselves to professional guidance. It would be best to tell customers, "Why not take a break and have something to eat, or "We want you to come back. Let us arrange a ride home." Safety is the ability to provide quality staff service, quality patron enjoyment, and quality community safety. Your written and unwritten policies need to be employed by your trained employees early and often, and you need to focus on lessening risk, which will ultimately help lead to a more profitable business.

The essence of good business is understanding good money versus bad money. You want your customers to feel safe and to have your customers come back. Caring for your customers can create one of the best paths to safe profitability.

The process starts at the door, but it’s ongoing throughout the business and the night. By paying attention to the small things at the door, larger issues may be avoided completely.

Robert “Bob” Pomplun is the founder and president of Serving Alcohol, which offers online, responsible alcohol training for bars, restaurants, on-premise establishments and people in the hospitality industry. Pomplun – who was a bartender for more 20 years and has three decades of experience in the hospitality industry – works as an alcohol certification consultant, instructor, manager and coordinator. To learn more about Serving Alcohol, visit


Plan to Attend or Participate in Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023

To learn about the latest trends, issues and hot topics, and to experience and taste the best products within the bar, restaurant and hospitality industry, plan to attend Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at Bar & Restaurant Expo, contact:

Veronica Gonnello​ (for companies A to G) ​e: [email protected] ​p: 212-895-8244​

Tim Schultz​ (for companies H to Q)​ e: [email protected]​ p: (917) 258-8589

Fadi Alsayegh​ (for companies R to Z) ​e: [email protected] p: 917-258-5174​

Also, be sure to follow Bar & Restaurant on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest industry news and trends.