VIP clientele have specific expectations in terms of their experience at your nightclub. Generally speaking, these expectations fall into two categories: safety and satisfaction. Because they’re very important (that is, after all, two-thirds of the acronym) it’s in the best interest of operators to deliver on both fronts. Daniel Collins, president of DC Security Consulting and Nightlife Protection Institute, shared what it takes to offer a true VIP experience to celebrities and guests who otherwise breathe rarified air. You’ll want to take this information to heart because the big revenue celebrity appearances generate brings with it big liability.
Before you even consider how you’re going to handle pre-arrival and arrival, take a look at your security personnel. If you don’t have a solid inside team and a solid door outside you need to deal with those shortcomings. VIPs expect smooth, painless entry and those who are concerned with their safety will notice if security doesn’t seem to be on point, which will impact their experience negatively. Every paying guest is important but losing a VIP can lead to the loss of other VIPs. General admission guests will notice if your VIPs start disappearing, and they’ll go where the celebrities and tastemakers are going: your competition. Protect your venue’s reputation by impressing your celebrity VIPs and making certain that your security personnel looks and behaves the part.
It’s up to you to employ security personnel or contract a security company, just like it’s your responsibility to line up off-duty law enforcement to handle your very important clientele. To protect your VIPs, assign the personnel who best know your building to them. It should go without saying but also assign the best trained, including use of force guidelines, CPR and AED training. If you have security personnel who like to be on their phones or otherwise fail to pay attention, don’t have them anywhere near your VIPs. Also avoid having anyone around your VIPs who just wants to meet celebrities and rub elbows with the well-heeled.
Now that you have your security sorted you can tackle VIP pre-arrival. A multitude of questions need to be answered in order to be ready. In terms of transportation, ask yourself the following:
- Is your establishment responsible for transportation? If so, you need to research the transportation company and the driver.
- Is a specific brand or type of vehicle you’re expected to provide?
- Are there other expectations you must fulfill during pick up?
- Where will the driver be picking up the VIP?
- What route(s) will the driver take to your establishment?
Arrival of the vehicles brings up other questions:
- How will the vehicle(s) be placed arriving at your location?
- Do you have a plan to ensure the area is properly blocked off from fans and paparazzi?
- How many vehicles must you account for?
- Which entrance and exit will be used?
- Will fans be able to see the VIP?
- Where will the VIP and their guests be placed?
- How many security personnel will be needed and where will you place them?
One key to having these questions answered is to be in communication with the VIP’s team prior to their arrival to make sure the night goes as planned. You also need to ensure that all of your security is in place at least one hour prior to arrival. They need to be walking the interior and exterior again and again and again, looking for security and safety issues. If your VIP is a big enough name that traffic will be diverted or blocked off, make that happen 3 to 4 hours before arrival because fans will start gathering early. Plan to have any law enforcement you’ve hired assist the VIP and their team once their vehicle has arrived. You will have to decide if the VIP and their team needs to be patted down upon arrival and plan accordingly. Make sure their path is clear all the way to their VIP seating and that they don’t need to stop for any reason.
So, you’ve gotten your VIP into their vehicle, whisked them through traffic, brought them to your establishment, and set them up in their designated area without a hitch. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. The best practices for taking care of this level of VIP are:
- Assign staff to them and not deviate from that plan.
- Avoid assigning staff members who are big fans of the VIP.
- Unless the VIP has offered, do not allow staff to interact with them for autographs and photos.
- Have management on hand at all times to enforce staff professionalism.
- Security must monitor who is allowed in the VIP’s designated area, including staff members tasked with clearing bottles and glassware. If an issue arises, bottles and glasses can be used as weapons.
- Your cameras need to be functioning properly (recording and saving) and pointed at all entrances, exits, and the VIP’s designated area.
- Call the chief of police in your town/city to request a walkthrough from on-duty officers the night of your event if you haven’t hired off-duty officers.
- Your staff needs to make transitions from the VIP area to the bathrooms and stage or DJ booth smooth and professional.
- Be proactive rather than reactive. If a guest causes a problem at your venue, remove them immediately.
As cool as your nightclub is, and as much fun as your VIP is having, they’re going to have to leave eventually. Your off-duty officers or, if possible, on-duty officers should be posted outside your venue the entire evening, monitoring barricades, gathered fans, and the VIP’s vehicle. Realize that fans will leave early to claim a spot outside of your nightclub to see the VIP (and likely shriek at them while snapping photos). Again, egress is another reason communication with the VIP’s team is so crucial. The ability for your security staff to obtain an approximate (or an exact with any luck) time they need to be ready to handle the exit will make things run smoothly. It will also show how professional you, your management, and your personnel can be. This moment is also where your removal of any problem patrons will come in handy, as they can make a VIP exit problematic and dangerous. Again, be proactive, not reactive.
Depending on the level of the celebrity and the energy of the night, exit can get messy. Expect your VIP to receive more attention during egress than they did upon their arrival. You need to plan on having personnel leading the way and personnel trailing the group. And while it may not have crossed your mind, expect fans and other people who have gathered to chase after their vehicle when it leaves your venue. The excitement of the event, consumption of alcohol, and group mentality can have a strange and sometimes dangerous effect on crowds of people – plan accordingly, be ready for anything, and don’t be surprised by what people will do when they see a celebrity.
Good job! You’ve put Daniel’s techniques and tips to use, selected the proper team, and your VIP had a great time while you kept them safe. We'll see you at the 2017 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show.