It starts with a smile The days of security staffed with a burly bouncer, boxer or bikie, have been shown the door. More and more venues see the merit in hiring security with soft skills such as communication, capable of conflict resolution and prevention techniques, often with charm and a smile.
“The role of security in creating ambiance at an event is huge,” says Silvia Montello, CEO of the Association for Electronic Music.
“Very regularly it can be the difference between somebody coming away from a night feeling like they've had the best time in the world from actually thinking, ‘Well, the music was great, the line up was great, but the venue was not.”
Her tips? Be pleasant, say hello, and smile. “You can still do that while you're searching for somebody or going through what you need to do, your due diligence to let them in, but just be personable.”
It starts on the street In the back streets of Sao Paulo, the safety of nightclub patrons is an overriding concern, before they set foot anywhere near inside.
When the Caracol bar opened five years ago, a sleek industrial venue with craft cocktails and live DJ sets on the menu, its downtown location was relatively safe. Yet the situation deteriorated in the wake of the pandemic.
“It’s really, really difficult nowadays,” says venue owner Thiago Visconti. “People just snatch your phones when you're talking on the streets with their bikes.” The venue now employs up to three security staff dedicated to ensuring patrons “don’t get robbed” as they queue.
Visconti says the heavy security presence is a weight off the mind for patrons who understand it’s part of making them feel safe.
‘What happens in the bar, starts at the door’ Today’s venues in the red light district of Pigalle in Paris have largely shaken their reputation for sleaze, synonymous instead with excellent cocktails and a cosmopolitan clientele. This is no truer than at Lulu White Drinking Club, a diminutive den with a capacity of around 30, where Rodrig Djoyo presides over the door.
“People misunderstand how difficult this job is,” he says. “It's not easy because what happens in the bar, starts at the door. If you have a good doorman, you're going to have a good bar. If you have a bad doorman, your staff will be stressed all the time because of customers. That's the key.”
With many non-French speaking tourists waiting to enter, Rodrig’s secret sauce is to joke in a friendly way. “Sometimes you have English people who can't speak French and they just come to me and say: ‘Can I go in?’ And I just say, ‘Hello, how are you?’”
“At that point, they say ‘Oh my God, how are you?’ We start chatting and from there, that person feels like he's important and that's how you build confidence. They know that all my colleagues are going to welcome them. So it just makes their life easy and ours easy as well.”
If the guest seems drunk and aggressive, Djoyo says the key is to never overreact. “You just say, ‘No it’s not possible’, because as long as the person is not in the bar, it’s not a problem.
If once inside a patron seems intoxicated, Djoyo has another few tricks up his sleeve. “Sometimes you have to say, ‘You are a bit tired, go out so you can have a bit of fresh air.’ Because when you say to someone that he's drunk, it's insulting. And sometimes that can become a point of problems. So never say to a customer that he's wrong.”
It starts with the right energy On the nights she staffs the entrance at lesbian soirées in Paris, Rebecca Bournigault uses her physical presence – or lack thereof – to her advantage.
The petite Bournigault has a talent for physiognomy, an intuition about how someone might behave based on subtle signs or how they carry themselves.
Top of her mind is to ensure an ambience where partygoers can feel safe and free. “What is going to happen when people get a bit drunk, and a girl might take her top off. They need to be free to do that without judgement.”
Her trick is to refuse people at first, and see how they react. “I am not tall at all, I am tiny, and I am a woman, so a lot of people will be very aggressive with me because it seems they can do this. If you have an attitude with me, it is going to be a problem inside.”
On the other hand, if someone demonstrates a positive energy, it can get them over the line, even if they are not the targeted clientele.
She tells the story of two men who arrived at the door in a good mood, only to be told ‘Sorry, it’s a ‘soirée filles’ (ladies only night) tonight.’ One of the men couldn’t believe his luck, pulling out his passport to prove to Bourginault that he was Swiss.
He had misunderstood ‘ladies night’ as ‘Swiss night’, but Bournigault loved his vibe and let them both in.
“I saw them after, and they were with some girls that I know. They said, ‘Thank you, thank you, it's the best party of my life, I'm so happy’.”