Protecting your premises against violence

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Violence is not the answer: Listen to all sides of the story
Violence is not the answer: Listen to all sides of the story

Related tags Safety Violence Beer Multi-site pub operators Training

There are many ways publicans can protect their business, staff and reputation against violence, including CCTV, no drugs policies, stay up to date with health and safety regulations, provide extra staff training, use plastic bottles where appropriate, and intervening early in aggressive situations.

In London alone there were a reported 2,336 incidents of violence against person in, near, outside or opposite a licensed premises between September 2020 and September 2021, according to figures from the Metropolitan Police.

CEO of Safer Pubs, Mark Verner, said: “We [Safer Pubs]​ want to educate and inform pub licensees about prevention rather than conflict resolution and effect change in the pub trade.

“If you can intervene in a situation early enough before it develops into physical violence in some way, that’s great, if it’s already escalated to that point then we advise safety first and call the police.

“You should also try to move any potential weapons away from the area such as glasses, pool cues, tables, and chairs, call and wait for the police to arrive and move staff and customers out the way.”

Pubs are an integral part of British life and violence erupting in your social haven can have devastating effects, empathising with frustrated customers is one way to deescalate before violence occurs.

Prevention is better than cure

Manager of the Royal Oak Pub in Accrington, Lancashire, Terry Burt, who recently had his head smashed with a brick after a fight erupted at the pub, echoes Verner with a message of prevention is better than cure: “Get in there as soon as you can but don’t go in all guns blazing in the event of violence, listen to both sides of the story.

“Try and separate the fight and keep each person to one side and explain there is no need for violence.”

Verner advised making violence feel as though it would be out of place on your premises can encourage a calm and relaxed atmosphere.

Ensure décor is not in disrepair, avoid excessively loud music, zero tolerance policies on aggressive behaviour such as shouting and maintaining a clean and friendly standard are all ways to create the right kind of atmosphere for your customers.

Verner added: “There is a really good clip in our film, which is available on our website, about one particular landlord who, when he took over his pub, barred 75% of the customers.

“After he barred them and put new standards and messages throughout the pub about what type of pub he wanted to create, loads of old regulars who used to come in before the pub was a trouble pub started coming back in and he and his wife now have a fantastic, thriving pub.”

Though it can be difficult to navigate safety in your establishment alone, institutions such as Pubwatch and Safer Pubs are available to offer guidance, training, and support.

National Pubwatch chair, Steve Baker, said: "My advice to any licensee who wishes to reduce violence in their venue is to join their local Pubwatch scheme. There's nothing worse than trying to tackle a problem on your own. If you haven't got a local scheme we can help with advice and guidance.”

Alcohol reduction

Another way to combat violence in UK pubs could be reducing alcohol consumption on the premises, something which is common practice in Europe, where incidents of violence in pubs are lower than the UK.

Reducing alcohol consumption enables customers to better regulate their behaviour and promotes a safer, calmer message for a night out.

Verner said: “Modern day pubs and bars should be a place where everything isn’t centred just around alcohol, it should be about food, good coffee, and non-alcoholic beverages.

“There have been great strides with non-alcoholic bottled beer but very few pubs sell an extensive range of it and it’s a bit tucked away, whenever you walk into a pub eyeline marketing is what it’s all about, whatever you see on the bar or on the pumps is what catches your attention.

“If there was a lot more non-alcoholic beers on draft, like in places such as Germany, that would encourage a lot more non-alcoholic products to be drunk with amazing profit margins still.”

The main thing to remember, it seems, is early intervention, calm attitudes and setting the right mood for your establishment, and calling the police if prevention is no longer an option.

Both Safer Pubs and Pubwatch offer detailed training guides and videos on their websites regarding advice for publicans on both prevention and intervention on violence.

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