By Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business
This is the sixth and final article in a six-part series on the particulars of club hospitality management.
(Note: For the purpose of this series, the word “club” should also be interpreted to include both “nightclubs” and “day clubs” (venues typically in and around a pool area and often referred to as “beach clubs”), both of which typically entail many of the same management particulars. Where differences exist, they will be distinguished for the reader.)
In the prior parts of this series, we’ve talked about operational issues in club management including ID fraud and underage drinking, drugs and weapons in venues, and how to remove or arrest patrons when necessary. In this final part, we’ll look at some other ancillary operational challenges.
The Dress Codes in Clubs and Acceptable Coverage
Another operational issue, one that relates less to legal liability and more to aesthetics, is dress code. Depending on the particular club, certain dress requirements may be enforced. It is not uncommon to see rules requiring dress shoes and collared shirts for men in nightclubs.
In day clubs, bathing suits are typically standard dress code. However, while the difference between a shirt with a collar and a shirt without is about as clear a distinction as one can make, what is and is not swimwear can be much more ambiguous, and this can be a significant source of guest frustration and dissatisfaction.
For example, many day clubs refuse admission to male patrons who wear “basketball shorts” instead of bathing suits. The actual difference comes down to the fabric, which can be subjective, to say the least.
Fabric aside, what is and is not an acceptable amount of coverage is also an issue for males and females alike. Bikini tops with less than a square inch or two of actual fabric are available for sale, but they barely provide any coverage. “G-string” bikini bottoms also leave very little to the imagination. On the male side, European bathing suits, “Speedos” and other skimpy swimwear offer the same level of extreme exposure.
Now, culturally, these types of bathing suits may be permitted and may even be commonplace in other parts of the world. However, a club has to determine quite literally where it is going to draw the line. Specific parameters of what is and is not acceptable swimwear need to be set, and “gray areas” should be handled with care so as to not offend patrons.
Clubs Need to Maintain Control over Food, Beverages and Entertainment
In terms of food and beverage service, clubs operate in a similar way to restaurants and other food and beverage outlets. There must be proper purchasing, receiving, inventorying and tracking of all sales. Nightclubs suffer from relatively high levels of product theft and misappropriation, so it is important to carefully control all substances.
Newer technologies such as computerized pouring systems not only prevent unauthorized purveyance, but also help to control recipe ratios and avoid product wastage. Finally, serving staff must also be of legal age to serve alcohol. They must be properly trained according to state and local mandates; some type of alcohol service training is usually required by law.
Clubs also need to provide adequate infrastructure for the entertainment they provide. Most celebrity DJs come with a specific set of requirements for their performances including staging, lighting, special effects, sound and audio/visual equipment and other particulars.
These requirements are normally negotiated in advance in contracts. Club operators should also carefully weigh the price of such contracts against their anticipated earnings. Some resident DJs in Las Vegas earn tens of millions of dollars a year, so club revenue managers must ensure that the cost of these entertainers doesn’t completely absorb the profit margin of the business.
Safety Concerns in Clubs
Finally, general safety concerns are worth a brief mention. It is quite common in clubs for patrons to over-imbibe and become sick as a result. Minor cases might simply warrant a good night’s sleep, but severe incidents might require immediate medical attention.
Thus, club personnel ought to be trained in the fundamentals of CPR and first aid, so they can serve as first responders until professional help such as EMTs and Fire Rescue arrive. Some clubs go so far as to hire resident paramedics to be on standby duty on site each evening; in the busier nightclubs, these paramedics almost never go an evening without being called upon.
In addition to guests who become ill from too much drinking, it is not at all uncommon for patrons to get hurt in club fracases. Day clubs have an additional challenges for guests in the form of weather. Lightning near a pool can pose an obvious dangerous risk. So operators must weigh the risk of injury or death against the costs of closing the facility.
On the other hand, hot and sunny days can cause heat exhaustion and even heatstroke. These risks are only elevated by the dehydrating effects of alcohol consumption.
On top of these safety issues, there are more familiar hazards such as wet and slippery floors — very common in day club environments with pools and virtually anywhere drinks are served. This is where proper floor material selection to maximize friction coefficients and careful monitoring of guest areas becomes really important.
In addition to spilling drinks, intoxicated guests commonly drop their drinks. And when the containers are glass, the glass fragments can create a whole other set of hazards. For this reason, many clubs serve all beverages in plastic or paper cups and bottles.
Careful Thought and Planning Allows Clubs to Be Operated Safely and Profitably
Summarizing, managing clubs is a unique challenge in Las Vegas and everywhere else. Some of the most critical areas of concern for club hospitality operators include underage drinking, ID fraud, illegal and/or controlled substances, firearms/weapons, bag checks, dress codes, beverage sales, entertainment management, and safety issues.
But like every other kind of business, with careful thought and planning it is possible to manage clubs in a safe, successful, and sustainable way that gives satisfaction to guests and profits to operators.