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Licensees: Staying safe this New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve is always a huge hit with revellers looking to let their hair down, bidding farewell to one year and looking forward to the next, as well as providing a welcome boost to the night time economy of villages, towns and cities across the UK.

Licensees: Staying safe this New Year's Eve

While New Year’s is a time of reflection, celebration and short-lived resolutions, it’s also a time for licensees to exercise caution. A fifth of all violent incidents in 2013–14 took place in or around a pub or club. How can publicans, bar and nightclub owners protect themselves, their employees and their customers against the additional risks faced on the UK’s biggest party night?

Binge drinking, crowded areas, alcohol-fuelled violence and drink driving are problems all year round, but are especially prevalent in the excess of the festive holidays and New Year’s Eve. 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.

New year can be a time of high tensions. Many people will have been drinking all day, or have drunk at home beforehand. There are crowds at the bar, impatiently waving money at harrassed bar staff. People are jostled, harsh words and then punches are exchanged. Situations can quickly escalate into violence. Alcohol concern reported alcohol-related crime in the UK is estimated to cost between £8bn and £13bn per year.

Licensees: Staying safe this New Year's Eve

Having enough staff on shift, especially during times of peak demand such as Christmas and New Year is essential to limiting potential problems. More employees means more eyes on the floor, as well as hands serving on the bar. People can often get frustrated waiting long periods for drinks and that patience can grow even thinner after a long day of drinking. 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 Years Eve. Door staff are a premiseses first line of defence. They are responsible for stemming the flow of drunk people into your establishment, ensuring no drug abuse occurs, IDing all entrants so no underage drinkers slip through the net and are 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.

Licensees: Staying safe this New Year's Eve

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 and 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.

Other risks on busy nights include overcrowding. This can be a primary source of rising tensions among punters. This is hard to control without door staff. Some establishments choose to run ticketed events which ensures you are in control of the numbers. This approach may not be suitable for all businesses, it could be considered too formal or restrictive for small or traditional style pubs. It has been reported overly loud music can make disorder more likely, so keeping the volume at a reasonable level is advisable when the premisis is overcrowded.

The biggest problem facing publicans and bar owners is the abundance of glass. This can be a danger at anytime, but especially so in crowded confines. Having enough staff to regularly clear tables will reduce potential breakages, accidents and the 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.

Unfortunately, no matter the scale or layout of your pub, you could apply all the preventative measures and 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 ie for them to calm down/ reduce their noise level/ leave the premises. Explain why you are asking them to do so, allowing 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 no excuse.


Erin Heenan

Erin joined Epos Now in 2016 as an in-house content writer for the marketing department, making use of 10 years experience working in busy restaurants. An avid fan of shopping and eating out, she is committed to helping retail and hospitality SMEs get the most out of their businesses.

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