Forgive us for stating the obvious but bar and nightclub owners and operators face security challenges each and every day. Even the most neighborly of neighborhood bars faces an ever-changing customer base, and that puts them at risk for theft and lawsuits. The high turnover rate of your employees isn’t shy about offering the same risks. Keeping all of that in mind, should you install and use a surveillance system?
Asking yourself other questions can help you make the decision, unless local ordinances require that you have a surveillance system installed.
- Are you losing money and can’t figure out why?
- Have people been skipping out on their checks?
- Do you have fights breaking out at your bar?
- Do you suspect you’re suffering from employee theft?
- Is your venue experiencing vandalism?
Fights, unfortunately, happen in bars and nightclubs. It’s why we employ security. The right security and staff training can stop some physical altercations before they start, but it’s doubtful that any nightlife venue has truly never had a fight on its premises. Security cameras placed in the right areas can help to discourage fights, if for no other reason than the risk of police reviewing your recorded footage and making arrests. Signs warning guests that they’re being recorded can further discourage violence, and in some areas they’re required by law. Lowering the violence that occurs in or around your bar also makes the local authorities and government officials happier. In fact, some cities have passed ordinances that require new alcohol licensees to install high-definition surveillance cameras inside their bars and nightclubs. Further, they need to keep the footage for 30 days.
Theft is another ugly part of running a bar or nightclub. Some people who come into your bar or nightclub have no intention of paying for their drinks or food, and some of them also intend to steal bottles and other items from you. Cameras can make them think twice before their dine and/or drink and dash or attempt to walk out with a stolen bottle or two. A number of your employees may also be itching to use their sticky fingers to empty your stock room and wallet. Whether it be through over serving, giving away drinks when not authorized to do so, taking home some of your inventory, or just padding their pay with your cash, employee theft is a reality of every business. Again, installing security cameras in the right places can help you combat thievery.
Seems pretty cut and dry, doesn’t it? Cameras protect you, your guests, your property, and your bottom line. Clearly nobody but criminals would be against you installing security cameras at your venue. Not so fast, Turbo. Some people, many of them fed up with the pervasiveness of cameras, find recording devices intrusive. While operators aren’t permitted to film private areas like bathrooms, some bar and nightclub patrons believe that the venue as a whole should be considered private and free from recording equipment. You’re going to have to deal with the fact that installing a security system may drive away certain guests, and not all of them are criminals.
Let’s assume that you have now decided to install a surveillance system. You’ll want to maximize its effectiveness and minimize cost. That means the proper installation of the right system. Consider the following:
- Cameras should be placed in your open areas and give you complete coverage.
- Entrances and exits should be covered by security cameras so you can get a clear picture of each patron as they come into and leave your bar or nightclub.
- Cameras near offices, safes, and cash registers help you to avoid theft.
- How many cash registers do you have?
- Your surveillance system should offer you a clear view of any points of entry a burglar may try to use.
- What is your lighting throughout your venue? You’ll need the proper cameras to deal with various sources of light. The same goes for your parking lot.
- Are you leasing your space? Do they have a surveillance system installed?
- On the practical side of installing a surveillance system, what are the wiring needs and is your venue prepared to meet those needs? This is a cost you need to know.
- Along with your surveillance system, will other security components be installed? Will your contractor offer you a package to lower costs?
- What does your insurance company have to say about you installing a surveillance system? Do they have an opinion on contractors and systems? Do they require certain features? Will they reduce your rates based upon the system you’ve chosen?
- Do you give third-party vendors access to your bar or nightclub? You’ll need to tell your installer if you do.
- What are the costs of the various components, their installation, and the services bundled with them?
In terms of hardware, you need to know the following:
- Visible cameras are there to be obvious and deter theft or other criminal activity. Some are dummies, some actually record. Their function is up to you.
- Concealed cameras are hidden from your guests, which can help them feel more at ease and possibly relax those guests who feel recording is invasive. You can use these in areas only accessible to your employees.
- Infrared cameras are ideal for low and poor lighting conditions, capturing images that the human eye simply cannot.
- Fixed cameras, as their name implies, are focused on just one area. These are ideal for cash registers, safes, entrances and exits. Some are capable of zooming but they can’t capture images from areas outside of their field of vision.
- PTZ cameras are the opposite of fixed cameras. PTZ stands for pan, tilt and zoom, and that’s exactly what these cameras can do. Some PTZ cameras are operated manually, some are automatic. These tend to be more expensive than fixed cameras as they are capable of more functions.
Other considerations when deciding your security needs are your location, square footage, number of access points, business hours, which days your bar is open and which it’s closed, and even how much glass is in the building. Today's technology obviously gives you the capability to monitor your cameras and venue from anywhere but avoid micromanaging via your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. Taking the time to consider your needs and the systems available will help to keep installation and service costs low while giving you piece of mind.