Character and personality
Although a common stereotype of bouncers is that of the thuggish brute, a good club security staff member requires more than just physical qualities such as strength and size: “The best bouncers don’t “bounce” anyone… they talk to people” (and remind them of the venue rules).Lee Vineyard states that the “tough guy” mentality and look of some bouncers, in which they have their sleeves rolled up to show off their biceps and they have their arms crossed, can actually create more potential for fights than a bouncer who greets patrons with a “hello”, and is thus approachable.
An ability to judge and communicate well with people will reduce the need for physical intervention, while a steady personality will prevent the bouncer from being easily provoked by customers. Bouncers need to be able to detect the early warning signs of a potential confrontation with a patron, by observing crowds and individuals and spotting the signs of a “heated” interaction that could become a fight
Bouncers also profit from good written communication skills, because they are often required to document assaults in an incident log or using an incident form. Well-kept incident logs can protect the employee from any potential criminal charges or lawsuits that later arise from an incident.Bouncers need to be polite when answering questions or controlling crowds. In larger clubs, bouncers need to be able to work with a team of bouncers, which may require the use of radios to stay in contact and communicate (particularly between the inside and outside of a club).In bouncer teams, the bouncers must be aware of the location of the other bouncers, and ensure that when one bouncer relocates (e.g., to go to the bathroom), a gap is not left in the venue security.
However, British research from the 1990s also indicates that a major part of both the group identity and the job satisfaction of bouncers is related to their self image as a strongly masculine person who is capable of dealing with – and dealing out – violence; their employment income plays a lesser role in their job satisfaction. Bouncer subculture is strongly influenced by perceptions of honour and shame, a typical characteristic of groups that are in the public eye,as well as warrior cultures in general. Factors in enjoying work as a bouncer were also found in the general prestige and respect that was accorded to bouncers, sometimes bordering on hero worship. The camaraderie between bouncers (even of different clubs), as well as the ability to work “in the moment” and outside of the drudgery of typical jobs were also often cited.
The same research has also indicated that the decisions made by bouncers, while seeming haphazard to an outsider, often have a basis in rational logic. The decision to turn certain customers away at the door because of too casual clothing (face control) is for example often based on the perception that the person will be more willing to fight (compared to someone dressed in expensive attire). Many similar decisions taken by a bouncer during the course of a night are also being described as based on experience rather than just personality.
Use of force
Movies often depict bouncers physically throwing patrons out of clubs and restraining drunk customers with headlocks, which has led to a popular misconception that bouncers have (or reserve) the right to use physical force freely. However, in many countries bouncers have no legal authority to use physical force more freely than any other civilian—meaning they are restricted to reasonable levels of force used in self defense, to eject drunk or aggressive patrons refusing to leave a venue, or when restraining a patron who has committed an offence until police arrive. Lawsuits are possible if injuries occur, even if the patron was drunk or using aggressive language.
With civil liability and court costs related to the use of force as “the highest preventable loss found within the industry…” and bars being “sued more often for using unnecessary or excessive force than for any other reason” (Canada), substantial costs may be incurred by indiscriminate violence against patrons—though this depends heavily on the laws and customs of the country. In Australia, the number of complaints and lawsuits against venues due to the behaviour of their bouncers has been credited with turning many establishments to using former police officers to head their in-house security, instead of hiring private firms. In 2007, a bouncer firm in Toronto stated that a major issue for his bouncers is the risk of being charged with assault if a patron is injured because bouncers are dealing with a fight. The concerns about being charged by police may make bouncers reticent to call the police after they break up a bar fight. Lee Vineyard states that judges tend to be prejudiced against bouncers if there are injuries to patrons after bouncers break up a bar fight; as such, he recommends restraint in all bouncer actions, even if the bouncer is defending him or herself from a patron.
According to statistical research in Canada, bouncers are as likely to face physical violence in their work as urban-area police officers. The research also found that the likelihood of such encounters increased (with statistical significance) with the number of years the bouncer had worked in his occupation. Despite popular misconceptions, bouncers in Western countries are normally unarmed. Some bouncers may carry weapons such as expandable batons for personal protection, but they may not have a legal right to carry a weapon even if they would prefer to do so. An article from 2007 about bouncers in Toronto (Canada) stated that a major security firm instructs its bouncers to buy bulletproof vests, as they have to deal with armed patrons on a nightly basis. Bouncers also face patrons armed with brass knuckles, screwdrivers, and improvised weapons such as broken bottles.
Lee Vineyard recommends that bouncers be provided with uniforms by the club, so that patrons can identify the bouncers. During a fight in a bar, if the bouncers are un-uniformed as they approach the altercation, the fighting patrons may believe that the bouncers who are intervening are other fighting patrons, rather than security staff.
Use of force training programs teach bouncers ways to avoid using force and explain what types of force are considered allowable by the courts. Some bars have gone so far as to institute policies barring physical contact, where bouncers are instructed to ask a drunk or disorderly patron to leave—if the patron refuses, the bouncers call police. However, if the police are called too frequently, it can reflect badly on the venue upon renewal of its liquor licence.
Another strategy used in some bars is to hire smaller, less threatening or female bouncers, because they may be better able to defuse conflicts than large, intimidating bouncers. The more ‘impressive’ bouncers, in the often tense environments they are supposed to supervise, are also often challenged by aggressive males wanting to prove their machismo. Large and intimidating bouncers, whilst providing an appearance of strong security, may also drive customers away in cases where a more relaxed environment is desired. In addition, female security staff, apart from having fewer problems searching female patrons for drugs or weapons and entering women’s washrooms to check for illegal activities, are also considered as better able to deal with drunk or aggressive women.
In Australia, for example, women comprise almost 20% of the security industry and increasingly work the door as well, using “a smile, chat and a friendly but firm demeanor” to resolve tense situations. Nearly one in nine of Britain’s nightclub bouncers are also women, with the UK’s 2003 Licensing Act giving the authorities “discretionary power to withhold a venue’s licence if it does not employ female door staff”. This is credited with having “opened the door for women to enter the profession”. However, female bouncers are still a rarity in many countries, such as in India, where two women who became media celebrities in 2008 for being “Punjab‘s first female bouncers” were soon sacked again after accusations of unbecoming behaviour.
The Victoria Event Center has hired a sexual health educator/intimacy coach who acts as a type of bouncer called a “consent captain”. The consent captain monitors bar patrons to stop sexual harassment and sexual assault at social activities at venues and bars. The consent captain intervenes if she sees people who are getting stared at, harassed, or touched without sexual consent. She talks to the person who is feeling uncomfortable and then, if the first person agrees, speaks to the individual whose conduct is unwanted. Like a regular bouncer, the consent captain warns the person engaging in unwanted behavior that those acts are not tolerated in the venue; if the unwanted acts continue, she may “eventually ask them to leave”. The consent captain also checks on people who are intoxicated, to prevent people from taking advantage of their impaired state. Since the consent captain is, in this case, a sexual health educator, she is better able to notice risk situations regarding consent and harassment that regular bouncers might not notice.