Liquor Service Standards: Security and Identification

Liquor Service Standards: Security and IdentificationThe bar and nightclub industry looks so glamorous – so much money to be made, so much fun and so much ____ (you fill in the blank). Yet when you look beyond the smiles and bright lights, the hospitality industry is a business like any other. The big difference is that bars and nightclubs sell alcohol, which makes them very sensitive to security and age requirements.

In the world of bar security and bar security issues within the hospitality industry, the kind of businesses involved include:

  • Chain restaurants
  • Nightclubs
  • Sports bars
  • Casinos
  • Neighborhood bars with entertainment

There are a few questions to consider regarding today’s security staff and what is expected of them. This is 2013 and things are different than they were even 10 years ago. The cocktails are different, illegal drugs are a big problem for bar owners, the staff expectations are different, the laws are different and fake IDs are often of better quality than the real thing.

So, what do you expect from your security personnel? Please don’t call them bouncers any more. The job grew up and the bouncer is no longer wanted. Trained and certified security staff is the industry standard, not the football player paid in beer. Is the role of security to escort patrons out of a bar only after an altercation has taken place? Are they responsible for identifying signs of intoxication? Should they be certified by one of the national certification programs for safe alcohol service? Should off-duty police officers be hired? Is a license required for security in your state?

For a bar owner or licensee, serving or selling alcohol to a minor is a bad decision every time. Fake IDs have come full-circle. Internet IDs are excellent and can pass through a scanning machine.

Websites like actually review fake ID websites and their products such as:

  • U.S. drivers’ licenses
  • Canadian drivers’ licenses
  • European drivers’ licenses
  • High school diplomas
  • College diplomas
  • College transcripts

That’s not even the scary part. The scary part is that the equipment used to counterfeit IDs is often better than most state agencies use to create valid drivers’ licenses. How is security staff taught to properly check IDs to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors? What is reasonable? What does a reasonable effort look like today, when fake IDs are prevalent and may well be scanned through ID scanning machines costing several thousand dollars?

Does the purchase of the scanning machine constitute a reasonable effort? When a minor gets through security, is served at the bar service and consumes alcohol, it’s a major problem for the bar, the community and certainly for the minor. An intoxicated minor may drive a vehicle and crash that vehicle, resulting in injuries costing millions of dollars. When all is said and done, lawsuits over intoxicated minors cost tens of millions of dollars.

Many bars hire off-duty police officers to stand at the door and check IDs. That’s fine, but my personal opinion is (and I’ve taught hundreds of police officers in my classes), the benefit of using off-duty cops is 50:50. Some take the job seriously. Others seriously do not. They want the extra cash they receive for the job and don’t really pay close attention to the IDs coming through the door, because checking IDs at a bar or nightclub is not their “real job.”

This article is not about teaching anyone the proper way to check IDs. This article is about the seriousness of the security person’s position in a bar. There are far more problems in the bar business today than ever before. The emotional toll it can take on bar owners is nightmarish – horrible, horrible stuff. Bar owners cannot hire a brother-in-law to watch the door as a favor.

I guarantee you that the minor will point the finger at the bar 100 percent of the time if he gets hurt, and he will say one of two things:

a. The bar never checked my ID,
b. The bar didn’t check my ID properly

This article is about the job of security and the seriousness with which bar owners must view the performance of that job. Training is necessary not only in non-violent combat, but also in a certified program that teaches both safe alcohol service and security issues. Look for a program that includes both of those features. If you can’t find a combination program, then have the security personnel attend two programs, to obtain training in each topic. It’s 2013, and it’s not going to get any easier. But it sure is a glamorous business, isn’t it? Right.

elizabeth trendowski - legal adviceElizabeth Trendowski
A Liquor Liability/Bar Operations/Premises Security Expert with Robson Forensic.
She may be reached at: