We discussed “Cutting Bar Customers Off” in the previous lesson. Here, I just want to specifically address bar fights.
Don’t Do This!
Here’s what many brand-new bartenders will say in an interview – I know, because I would get responses like this all the time: If I asked them what they would do if a fight broke out in the bar, they’ll say something like, “The key to preventing bar fights is to anticipate a fight breaking out and diffuse the situation first.”
Really? You’re a brand-new bartender – and you know when a fight is going to break out? Yes, there may be some obvious signs – but it’s going to happen quickly. Believe me, experienced bartenders know this.
Bartenders who have been around for a while know that problems can arise long before they know anything about it. Most of the time.
Your bar’s house policy will dictate how you are to handle all of these “unfortunate” occurrences. Yes, obviously, the law will take precedence, but every bar has their own way of dealing with adverse situations.
When I first started bartending, things were very different. Bartenders didn’t think twice about jumping over the bar and pulling people apart. Bouncers were no-nonsense, and physically throwing people out left and right. My how times have changed!
So – there’s a major fight going on. Multiple people, fists flying everywhere, broken glass – you name it. What do you do?
The laws have changed. And, they’re very confusing. On one hand, the authorities want you to handle, or diffuse, the situation. On the other hand, your bar management doesn’t want you getting involved. What do you do?
Just open your local newspaper or favorite online news website and you’ll see examples of employees being fired for trying to prevent theft, calm down upset customers, or get involved in sticky situations. You don’t need that.
That being said, it was rare that a bar fight happened while I was working a shift. Yes, you can get into plenty of verbal altercations, and may have to step in when someone is being belligerent or bothering someone, but most of the time bar customers are really great, funny people.
Gone are the days of the heroic bartender leaping over the bar, baseball bat in hand, and squelching that riot. Nope. None of that. So, what do you do? How can you handle this situation in an acceptable, legal, and safe manner?
And, in real life, sometimes it may not be a smart thing to leave your bar. Again, only experienced bartenders know how to handle something like this because it depends on EXACTLY what’s going on – and what the House Policy is. Context is everything.
Obviously, you can cut people off if they’ve had too much to drink. Or, if someone is being belligerent and looking for trouble – get him out of there. But there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
I have called the police before. I have watched my bouncers take on a group of jerks. I’ve seen many one-on-one drunken fights. I’ve seen fights in the bar, in the restrooms, in the dining room – and out in the parking lot.
I’ve seen women duke it out. I’ve seen physical, domestic violence. I’ve seen women hit men. I’ve seen men hit women. I’ve seen customers hit food and cocktail servers – and bartenders.
Here’s what you do:
- Have someone get the manager
- Protect yourself and fellow employees
- Call the police if it escalates out of control
- Stay behind your bar if at all possible
Again, I’m really not going to go in that much detail here. Your bar policy and local laws will dictate how you handle bar fights. Just keep yourself safe – and hands off people!