Closing Time: Managing Patron Behavior

Closing Time: Managing Patron Behavior
Photo by Sara Norris

One of the most critical times in any bar or nightclub is the time leading up to and the actual closing of a venue. Whether you are mandated by local ordinances or have the ability to extend past closing time, it can be problematic if not monitored and proactively managed. Here we’ll examine the common closing time security problems and suggest practical and reasonable social behavior management at this incident rich “witching hour”.

Historical Incidents at Closing Time

A high percentage of incidents occur in the hour before, during and immediately after a venue closes and the longer the venue stays open the higher the risk for incidents. Bar and nightclub owners and managers need to make sure that their staff doesn’t become complacent and that they are constantly on alert; looking for areas of suspicious activity. Staff reductions or under staffing can also leads to more incidents and the improper handling of issues that may arise.

Your staff also needs to keep a close eye on patron’s right before and during last call as patron consumption rates increase and social behavior is impacted. Failure to proactively interact with patrons during closing time and making them aware of the security staffs presence can also lead to inappropriate behavior.

Revenues vs. Risk Exposure

Evaluating the real revenue picture during the last hour of operation and understanding that in most operations, those that have increased revenues near closing time have more police involved incidents. The risks associated with the increase in sales/revenue in the final hours of operation include the risk of fights and altercations, customer complaints and service incidents, and violating local liquor laws and alcohol management.

Best Practices
In order to keep you patrons safe and reduce incidents during closing time you need to:

• Evaluate and have a closing plan
• Use the POS System for closing time analysis
• Evaluate last hour cover charge policy
• Proactive management interaction with patrons during last hour
• Work to mitigate staff complacency
• Practice heightened alcohol awareness during last hour
• Manage the social behavior because they are impaired


Re: Closing Time: Managing Patron Behavior
by: nightclubsecurity
February 4, 2015

Thanks for the article Kristen. Closing time can indeed be a dangerous time. We train staff to be prepared and EXPECT problems. Most times, if the staff is mentally prepared, they act before the problems arise. Here are some other possible points to consider at closing time.

1. Train staff to pick up glassware all through the night. Don't leave "weapons of opportunity" for the intoxicated guest walking out at closing.
2. Train staff to remember that at closing, many guests will be intoxicated and many will do and say stupid things. Staff must expect that behavior and let it go!
3. Train staff to be polite as they "ASK" guests to move along and leave. Yelling, pushing, bumping, shining flashlights at guests, and worse will only instigate violence.
4. Owners must remember closing can be a safe time if they manage closing just like they manage the opening or a special event. Closing time employee roles should be taught to staff so they know what to do - Owners can't just "expect" employees to know what to do.
5. Owners must accept the cost of having the security team post up outside of the venue for 15 to 30 minutes after actual closing time to help provide a safer environment.

Finally, there are other points to consider, HOWEVER, owners and managers must remember that using the local police when they suspect a brewing incident is vital. They may not want to call because of those terrible "Calls for Service" but being proactive can save the owners so much more!

Be Safe - Robert, Nightclub Security Consultants