Nice to know that Tracy Bird, licensee of the Newman Arms in London’s West End, is liking her new door supervisor.
Bird, you might remember, had a recent run-in with Westminster Council over being made to serve customers more slowly and close her famous pie restaurant at weekends.
Westminster has backed down on those two, but the third requirement, to employ door staff, has stuck.
In fact, it’s brought positive benefits to the pub. Its reduced thefts and helped staff to keep order, by removing drunks, for instance. Some think the law against serving intoxicated customers is a dead letter, but any good licensee will want to remove them with a minimum of fuss.
The pub industry has changed a lot over the last decade, and the evolution of the bouncer into the door supervisor has been a largely unsung example of progress.
Of course, it would be lovely if pubs and bars didn’t need to have someone on the door. Bird herself was extremely reluctant to employ someone, understandably fearing it would undermine the traditional pub atmosphere of the Newman Arms.
Part of the reason for her initial aversion surely goes back to the old image of bouncers as underworld heavies who caused more trouble than they prevented. But in 2003 the regulation and certification of door staff by the Security Industry Authority transformed the situation.
The badge that new-age bouncers wear on their arms show they’re professionals who aren’t going to rough you up or sell you drugs. They might even have people skills. The old euphemism of ‘greeter’ now has a grain of truth to it.
So it was good news when the government decided not to chuck the SIA onto the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ as it originally intended. And qualifications for door staff have now been expanded to include physical intervention training.
That was a controversial area at one time, but the argument has been won that, realistically, the need for physical force is going to come up from time to time, and a professional door supervisor should know when and how it’s appropriate to use it.
So that’s all good. Except that I read the other day that the government is still aiming to phase out the SIA in its current form by this time next year and will launch a consultation shortly.
Worryingly, deregulation remains on the cards. And with it the possibility that all this good progress will be reversed. If we’re not careful, the bouncer could be bouncing back.