Gated Entry: Door Policies in Nightlife Today
No matter what nightlife establishment you frequent, if there's someone checking IDs at the door, chances are they've been briefed on the door policies. These rules/regulations/policies come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some revolve around a patron's clothing, while others can get as granular as the male-to-female ratio that's looking to get in.
To some venues it's what makes or breaks their business. Look at it this way – whatever door policy you implement will ultimately gauge the clientele that walks through the door and adds to the perception of your establishment. Needless to say, it's a pretty important aspect of the nightlife business.
For those looking to establish a base or core set of door policies, they should begin with one thing in mind; behavioral conduct, according to Eugene Abreu, CEO of New York City's Privileged Marketing Group.
For those patrons that arrive in a state that can only be described as "unstable," they can be seen as a bit of a liability to the venue. Abreu believes that turning away anyone that falls into that category should be the golden rule, even if you're not looking to have a lengthy list of rules at the door.
"[After that] then it's ok to have variables on different nights depending on the event, whether it's related to a dress code, theme, or a guest list," he said. However, the two main characteristics that he believes should be a part of every door policy are "behavior and sobriety."
So, who's in charge of creating these policies?
"A professional who can assess the business model and target can therefore dictate a standard operating procedure for that door," he says. That definition itself targets upstream management, be it the owner or the managing director of the venue. But when it comes to laying down the law, "it's the doorman's door" he says.
"But they must always be reminded of the overall goal and reputation of the establishment," reminds Abreu.
While many nightlife venues do have a strict set of policies behind the velvet rope, sometimes those could easily become of the downfall of the business, according to Carmel Ophir, an industry veteran who owned and operated legendary venues in downtown Miami such as The Vagabond and Lola, and had major involvement on the marketing side in previous years for memorable destinations like Crobar, Groove Jet and The Bar.
The stricter door policies can really filter out a crowd, but it could also shun away loyal, return clients.
"This tends to be a profitable model in the beginning, however it's usually short-lived," Ophir said. "The 'VIP' crowd doesn't stay loyal for long, and as soon as the next 'hot' venue opens, they flock there."
Although Ophir's last venue recently closed its doors, in its many years on the scene, The Vagabond was known for a "come one, come all" attitude at the door. This brought in an eclectic crowd that felt at home and came back again...and again...and again.
"In my 25 years in the business I have never enjoyed any venue with a strict door policy," Ophir said. "Where most venues reject the low-brow, low-fi, misshape type of audience, I embrace it."
Although his mentality may not be shared by many in the nightlife today, his work is living proof that there may not be a need for stringent policies, besides the fundamentals, after all.