While New Year’s is a time of reflection, celebration and short-lived resolutions, it’s also a time for licensees to exercise caution. In 2015/16, alcohol was found to be a contributory factor in 19% of all recorded crime and 40% of all violent crime in Northern Ireland alone.
How can publicans, bar and nightclub owners protect themselves, their employees and their customers against the additional risks faced during the biggest party night of the year?
Encourage responsible drinking
Have a zero-tolerance policy to people with no ID and ID anyone who looks under 25. Don’t fall for any sob stories, after all it’s your license at risk. Encouraging people to drink water throughout the evening is good practice. Try leaving a jug on the bar so people can help themselves, as some customers may be embarrassed to ask.
Promoting any food you offer or bar snacks is also a good way to stop people becoming over-intoxicated. Ensure your staff feel comfortable enough to refuse service to anyone showing signs of having had too much, or if they’re not sure they should check with a manager.
Many pubs and bars who don’t regularly employ door staff make an exception for New Year's Eve. Door staff are your premises first line of defence. They are responsible for stemming the flow of drunk people into your establishment, deterring drug use and IDing all entrants so no underage drinkers slip through the net.
Door staff are also trained to handle confrontations safely. This is often a source of comfort to the staff manning the bar, knowing they have the additional support and protection if required. Door staff should be SIA (Security Industry Authority) certified and can be hired from agencies or you can employ them directly, but they must by law have the correct certifications.
Have enough staff
Having enough staff on shift, especially during times of peak times such as Christmas and New Year is essential to limiting potential problems. More employees mean more eyes on the floor, as well as hands serving on the bar. People can often get frustrated waiting long periods for drinks and patience can grow even thinner after a long day of drinking
Additional staffing can be expensive, whether it be bar or door, but having enough people to secure your premises is essential to reducing the risk of violent escalations. It’s in everyone's best interest to avoid drink-related violence, and not just because of the potential harm to your customers, staff or property. The long-term reputational damage your business could suffer following an act of violence can long outweigh the cost of a few additional staff one night of the year.
Be wary of glass
One of the biggest problem facing publicans and bar owners is the abundance of glass. This can be a danger at any time, but especially so in crowded premises. Having enough staff to regularly clear tables will reduce potential breakages, accidents and the risk of bottles or broken glass being used as a weapon. One solution to this problem is to use alternatives such as plastic or toughened glass. Decanting bottles into plastic cups also reduces the amount of glass circulating on the floor.
Effectively handle confrontation
Unfortunately, no matter the scale or layout of your pub, individuals with a propensity for violence will inevitably cause trouble if they feel inclined to do so. Dealing with escalating situations should be done tactically, never putting yourself or your staff in harm’s way. Remaining calm and non-threatening in your verbal communication and body language is essential to getting a disgruntled customer to comply with your wishes, i.e. for them to calm down/ reduce their noise level/ leave the premises.
Explain why you are asking them to do what you've requested and allow them to air their grievances. If you feel their presence is too disruptive ask them to leave. When escorting a customer off-site never enter their physical space or put your hands on them. If they refuse or continue to act aggressively call the police. No one should be subjected to violent behaviour in the workplace, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is never excuse.
Binge drinking, crowded areas, alcohol-fuelled violence and drink driving are problems all year round but can be especially prevalent in the excess of the festive holidays. Publicans, bar owners and nightclub staff should be vigilant against the increased risks News Years presents to ensure everyone, customers and employees, have a safe and happy New Year.