Do We Judge A Book By Its Cover When It Comes To Door Policies?

Sin Bosier by all accounts is the queen of San Diego nightlife. In fact, media outlets like the San Diego Union Tribune, and The Venue Menu have dubbed her that. As a hospitality consultant, Sin has launched, redone, reinvigorated old joints into new ones. And, in turn, has won various awards for her work.

Sin plays an active role in marketing the BID (Business Improvement Districts) and looking after the interests of over 200 nightclubs, bars restaurants and hotels in downtown San Diego. Therefore, she knows a thing or two about dress codes and door policies. But when does a dress code drive business and increase revenues and when does it deter business and decrease revenues?

Bar and club owners need to make sure that they run a place known for its good-looking, well-behaved clientele because the return is customers that stay longer and spend more money because they are in an environment they feel comfortable in. However, there are always the high profiles non-compliers that you need to accommodate as well. So, how can you adjust your dress code in order to attract the non-compliers without compromising the overall atmosphere that you have established?

Bar IQ had the opportunity to asked this leading nightclub and bar professional about door policies in her beloved city.

Bar IQ: There are dozens of reasons to have a “Dress Code” at a nightclub or bar. What are door hosts looking for specifically?

Sin Bosier: By “Dress Code”, door hosts are looking beyond bagginess of your pants, label on your jeans, length of your sleeves, and the types of shoes you have on. Besides maintaining the aesthetic standard of the clientele, a “No Sandals” policy may be put in place to protect patrons from broken glassware and the establishments from liability issues. It will never be called “Behavioral Code”, but door hosts are looking for level of intoxication, abnormal eye movements from illegal drug use, authenticity of IDs, vibe/motive of the group other than a good time, gang tattoos, concealed weapons and any potential cause for problems.

Bar IQ: Is the stigma of a “Door Policy” the concept that you are being judged superficially a real negative or a necessary evil?

Bosier: The concept of “Dress Code” has evolved from the “No Shirt No Service” days to earn actual appreciation by patrons visiting non-dive bars. Inappropriately attired patrons are frowned upon by well-dressed guests, that WILL lament, “how did (s)he make it past the door?” The absence of a proper “Dress Code” policy could compromise a club’s image, offend the discerning clientele and do more to hurt than help one’s business.    

Bar IQ: Is there a “One Policy Fits All” Dress Code? How is San Diego different from other cities?

Bosier: San Diego, Southern California is famous for having the best weather in the country with a long stunning coastline and a pulsating nightlife. The historic Gaslamp Quarter is a premier world class entertainment district, which houses some of the best award-winning nightclubs in the U.S. It is a prerequisite stop for millions of visitors and international party goers all year round. The dress code downtown is much stricter than say Pacific Beach (popularly known as PB), which draws a younger and more casually clad college crowd. “No Hats Allowed” downtown would not apply at eclectic neighborhood bars where fedoras are commonly sighted. There are common basics but there is no “One Policy Fits All CLUBS” or “One Policy Fits All NIGHTS”. Even upscale venues exercise flexibility to relax their dress codes on weeknights, holidays (e.g. Mardi Gras and St Patrick’s Day) and according to performers and their music genres (e.g. PartyRock and EDM). 

Bar IQ: Some door people might turn away a group of guys without dates. Is that relevant in 2013? They may be perfect gentleman out celebrating and more than willing to spend some cash. Or are they looked upon as a potential "gang" after a bunch of drinks?

Bosier: Balancing the ratio of women to men is good practice for obvious reasons. If a group of guys are turned away, it is most likely due to their “behavioral code” as opposed to the imbalance of “yin and yang”. As a method of balancing, some clubs enforce it through their guest list policy, e.g. for every male, there must be 2-3 females in your group, or hosted champagne bar for a closed list of ladies.

Bar IQ: Does bottle service or the perception of a big spend trump borderline door decisions?

Bosier: If someone arrives wearing a t-shirt and sandals, and wants to drop money on bottle service, what would you do? Judge a book by its cover… or the content (of his wallet)? Whatever your policy is, maintain communication between managers and door hosts, empower and respect door hosts for the (non)admission decisions they make.     


For more insight on the topic, join SIN Bosier at NCB 2013 on Wednesday, March 20, 2:00 PM – 2:50 PM, “Is Your Dress Code Helping or Hurting your Business?” Panel Discussion. And also on Wednesday, March 20, 4:00 – 4:50 PM, “Keep the Music Moving When Music Festivals and Raves Dominate”. Contact: [email protected]

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