Top tips: search for a way to keep customers safe

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Early doors: an effective search policy can act as a strong deterrent
Early doors: an effective search policy can act as a strong deterrent
You may sometimes carry out searches of your customers, particularly if you trade late at night or have a condition attached to your licence requiring you to do so.

The requirement to search is usually intended to prevent illegal drugs or weapons from entering your premises. If this is an issue for you, a good search policy is key – it keeps your customers safe and acts as a strong deterrent. In a world where belt buckles and even credit cards are apparently being sold with ready-made blades, vigilance is paramount.

Here are a few issues to consider:

Door supervisors – they don’t have legal or statutory powers to search any person, but you can effectively have a “condition of entry” which simply means that customers won’t be allowed to enter the premises unless your door staff are permitted to search them;

Never forcibly search anyone;

Display a sign explaining your search policy, which may include the use of metal detector wands or a metal arch; 

Explain what you will be searching for – illegal drugs, weapons and any other items unsuitable to be brought into the premises. Most customers will appreciate searches being conducted for their own safety;

Carry out your searches as courteously and efficiently as possible;

Any random search policies should be carried out with such frequency as to act as a deterrent, and the selection of customers to be searched must not be made on any grounds that could be regarded as discriminatory and therefore unlawful;

Male door supervisors may ask female customers to empty the contents of their handbags or pockets on to a table but otherwise should not carry out a “pat down”. Female door supervisors should be used in these circumstances;

Seizures of illegal drugs or weapons should be recorded and the police notified;

Do you have any “Achilles heel” entrances that someone could use if they wanted to smuggle in a weapon, without needing to go through your search procedure? This could include time-windows where troublemakers have already brought weapons on to your premises before your search policy started;

A frank but vital question – do you trust your door team? There is absolutely no point having a search policy when one or two members of your door team let their mates through or are otherwise not enforcing it.

This is your premises licence – difficult to obtain, easy to lose. A fatal stabbing at your premises could potentially see you closed for several weeks following a summary review, not to mention the human tragedy and the PR consequences.

Related topics: Licensing law

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