Bounce Check

Club patrons are getting hurt.
Many blame poorly trained security staff.

By Brian Hickey
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 21, 2001

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It's this very mindset that Ed Iannucci admits he slipped into while working at several Philadelphia clubs, including Asylum and Cache, in the '90s. Iannucci says he was hired based solely on his knowledge of martial arts.

"They don't provide training, but when they want someone out of the club, they want them out," says Ianucci. "Then they turn around and yell when someone comes back with a lawyer saying, 'A bouncer ripped my client's arm out last week.' A lot of bouncers, including myself, have cost bar owners a lot of money and hurt a lot of people who shouldn't have been hurt. My job was to get people out with what I had to get them out with."

This is not to imply that bouncers are always responsible for problems. Intoxicated patrons often deserve to be tossed from a bar--sometimes even physically. But if not handled properly, a deserved ejection can quickly become assault.

And despite already paying tens of thousands in insurance premiums, a club owner is open to countless lawsuits, frivolous or not, since assault and battery is rarely covered by their policies.

"A lot of claims are settled under $100,000, but all it takes is that one catastrophic case to hit one-, two- or three- million dollars," says Bucks County bar insurer Jack Reaney, noting that premiums drop when a bar trains its staff. Otherwise, he says, "It's not a matter of if you're going to get sued--it's a matter of when."

Though the bouncers interviewed for this story spoke freely of their confrontations, city police officials don't see many of the reports. Most club incidents are kept quiet unless a lawsuit is filed or the victim submits a report.

"Bouncers have no immunity from prosecution, no special rights," says 6th District Police Lt. Lou Campione, who covers the Delaware Avenue club strip. "They're not permitted to get overly physical and don't have the legal protection to go beyond keeping order. We do get reports of bouncers hurting patrons and we investigate them. But I've found that scenario to be more the exception."

The Egypt employee says that's easily explained. Few incidents--except those involving drugs and weapons--find their way to a police report. "They're better off protecting themselves by making us aware of problems rather than sweeping them under the carpet and having it seem like a coverup down the line," says Campione of the clubs in his jurisdiction.

Security consultants say this isn't specific to Philadelphia. Part of their job, aside from helping clubs set up security plans, is testifying in trials across the country when clubs find themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits.

Chris McGoey, a San Francisco-based consultant whose Web site calls him "The Crime Doctor," says bouncers need a job description. But far too many clubs don't offer manuals or other training documents, preferring to pass their rules on by word of mouth.

"They need to know what's a crime, what their limitations are when it comes to force," McGoey says. "But it comes down to money. It's the greed factor. Owners just want that cash register to ring. Training their bouncers would cost them money. They don't want to invest in someone who may not be working for them a month down the road."

Further compounding the problem, the club industry's competitive nature prevents owners from joining together to develop across-the-board standards. It's a problem with no solution in sight.

Mike Driscoll of the United Tavern Owners Association of Philadelphia, however, says his group, which represents 400 bars and clubs, is digging up funding for a citywide Techniques in Alcohol Management (TAM) program. The program will educate bouncers and bartenders about when to cut people off.

But Driscoll concedes that while TAM would address some problems, it doesn't delve into specific security issues, like use of force and how to physically hold someone when removing him from a club. Nor does the state Liquor Control Board, whose free Responsible Alcohol Management Program is a similar initiative focused on preventing kids from drinking and legal patrons from too much imbibing.

Aside from roundtable discussions involving police, the bar community and civic organizations, there are few outside resources for clubs interested in teaching their employees effective bouncing techniques.

Several gentleman's clubs--including Cheerleaders, Delilah's and Show 'N Tel--have started sending their security staffs to learn the CDT (Compli-ance Direction Takedown) method of crowd control. It's a program that focuses on "pain compliance" and the use of nonlethal force.

Iannucci, the former bouncer, teaches CDT locally, but adds he regularly meets with resistance when calling dance clubs. He says clubs don't want to make the financial investment. (The cost of the two-day program is roughly $395 per person.)

"That these guys don't know how to grab people can lead to unspeakable damage," says the 6-feet-1-inch, 265-pound Iannucci, who runs an Olney karate school. "But the clubs are so evasive. They just want to stay away from having a use-of-force policy."

Though he clearly has something to gain from CDT's local success, Iannucci points out that well-trained bouncers would reduce the number of future lawsuits against bar owners.

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