I was out in Las Vegas a while back, hunkered down for the night at one of my favorite spots. A few drinks in, I was chatting with some pals and enjoying a world-renowned DJ cranking out tracks on the turntables when I was shoved forcibly in the back and heard a gruff voice bellow, “Get out of the way!” Considering this unwarranted shove had caused my beverage to slosh down the front of my clothes and shoes, I was rather irked (and wet) when I turned around to confront the assailant.
When I spun to face him, I realized that my eye line only met his broad chest (and I’m 6 feet, 1 inch). Gazing up at a 6-foot-10-inch behemoth, who had to weigh close to 350 pounds, I saw the stern look of a man who never appreciates something cute and fuzzy, such as a newborn puppy. He likely wouldn’t have cared even if he’d just straight-armed me into a pit of angry wolves. Then I saw the button on his lapel and realized he was a private bodyguard for a whale of a client who was there to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’d seen this particular gent before, a thin waif of a man who looked rather unassuming when in the middle of a packed venue.
But because of this man's high net worth (and I mean astronomical), he always rolled with a crew of gorilla-necked guards who could readily palm your entire face without much of a second thought. Ironically, the juxtaposition of the army of hulks he paid to surround him made the petite whale completely stand out, given how they cleared entire areas and created a sizable buffer zone for him. Had he ever arrived solo, no one would’ve been the wiser. While I can’t take issue with his wanting to feel safe while enjoying a night out, I do have a problem when his security team makes the venue's patrons feel uneasy because of their manhandling.
I understand — taking the situation from an owner’s standpoint — that the more comfortable a whale or celebrity feels in your venue, the more he or she likely will spend and the more he or she likely will return to your establishment. But there needs to be some training for these guys who are used to guarding their protectees in non-nightlife environments. To walk in and immediately being shoulder-checking people out of the way leaves a bad taste in the rest of the paying patron’s mouths. It’s also a fantastic way to garner more attention to the exact person you’re trying to shield from the rest of the room.
Venues often hire capable legions of security staffers, ones who are trained in dealing with drunken revelers and escorting higher-profile VIPs to the bathrooms with ease and can make sure an area remains issue-free for those inside. And if you don’t have a solid security force that is adept at dealing with those issues, reconsider whom you’re using to maintain order within your nightclub. No one needs to be manhandled by an overgrown giant who often doesn’t realize the strength he posses until someone ends up on the floor.
Assuming your security force is proficient, then moving a high-profile guest through the room should be a matter of proper planning and communication. If you know you want to put a celebrity or big spender in a certain area of your venue, get an ETA on his or her arrival and have your staff clear out a bit of space beforehand so the entrance can be a quick and relatively smooth one. And remind the private security force that you have other paying clients who need to be treated with a modicum of respect and human decency. Have one of your more trusted guards lead the way, radioing to another guard who can help secure the easiest line to the proper table or section.
Your club’s staff likely will know who the other important spenders are in the room, so it’ll be a bit easier to afford them a kinder approach when asking them to step aside. A private firm’s guards are often indiscriminate when moving patrons and can easily anger another paying client. Keep a member of your security detail nearby to quell any issues that potentially could arise if the VIP needs to move again.
There are plenty of celebrity bodyguards who do it properly. Jay Z's and Beyonce’s security details are among the best. I recall sitting beside the power couple at Goldbar a few years back while they enjoyed a particularly late evening out. As the room thinned, more denizens realized who was perched across from them and began approaching. With a quick nod from the rap artist or his wife, their security team would approach swiftly from their station in the far corner of the room and intercept any star-struck revelers, politely asking them to respect the duo’s privacy.
The overwhelming majority of the patrons heeded the verbal warning and no hands were laid on anyone — until one soused Beyonce fan attempted to grind on the singer when she was dancing. Beyonce looked to the corner where her guard was standing and gave a headshake, signifying she didn’t like what was occurring. Immediately, the bodyguard snapped into action and, before the inebriated man knew what was happening, two sturdy hands were in his armpits; he was hoisted into the air as though he was very light cargo on this human forklift — his legs still moving — and carried clear across the room. Upon his return to the ground, both the venue’s security and Beyonce’s guard explained that if he attempted to talk to her again, he’d be ejected. He stayed away for the rest of the evening.
The bottom line is everyone — famous or otherwise — wants to feel free from potential harm during his or her night out. You’re likely already doing everything in your power to make sure regular customers enjoy a blanket of protection when they’re inside your venue. Just make sure that doesn’t all go out the window when someone with a bigger wallet or boldface name enters your room.