Bouncer shortage a 'threat to public safety', warn nightlife bosses

By Sam Gruet and Will Chalk
Newsbeat reporters

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Image source, Getty Images

A shortage of bouncers in the UK could become a "threat to public safety", the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) has warned.

It blames the lack of security staff at venues on people quitting during the pandemic and believes staffing levels are under 70% of what they should be.

Brexit, and a lack of EU workers, has also been a contributing factor.

One in five night-life businesses are believed to have closed or cut hours because they can't get security staff.

Nightclub bosses now want the government to step in.

The government has said it's helping people "retrain, build new skills and get back into work to help fill vacancies".

"Door security staff shortages in the night time economy are becoming critical," says Michael Kill, CEO of NTIA.

"We carried out a survey a few months ago which found that security resource in the sector was only at 70%, and I am afraid that the situation has only deteriorated further since then.

"Whether it is through acting as a first line of defence against a terrorist attack, or intervening to break up violent incidents, licensed security staff are fundamental to public safety."

He adds that current shortages are "beginning to put the public in real jeopardy".

Image source, Tom Robinson
Image caption,
Tom Robinson works on the doors, as well as running a company who supplying door staff to venues

Tom Robinson runs ESP Security Solutions who supply venues up and down the country with door staff.

"We're stopping drugging, alcohol being bought from outside. It's not just 'you're not wearing trainers you're not coming in', it's about creating a safe and secure environment for those guys to go in," he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The busy festive period also has him concerned.

"Over Christmas our work load increases by about 30% - we've got to find roughly an additional 30% of staff. I'm not confident that we'll be able to do that."

Which could mean your work Christmas party or New Year's plans could be threatened.

"If we don't have the staff, the venues won't be able to open - it says on the licence given to venues how many staff they need to open safely, if they have got them they need to shut. Public safety is paramount."

Image source, Charlotte Moore
Image caption,
Charlotte, 24, says working as a bouncer is like being "part of a family"

For Charlotte Moore, who's 24, working as a door supervisor is her social life, as well as her source of income.

"A lot of my friends work in the industry - and it's very empowering for a woman to work alongside some great door teams."

Being a woman means she's a minority within an industry dominated by men.

"Females are very lacking in the industry. It's been a very male orientated world for such long time. I think there's about 7% of females out of the entirety of door staff. We need more."

But, she says, having spent 18 months on furlough, some of her colleagues have decided it's not the industry for them.

"They've realised maybe they don't want Saturday nights on the door, when they can go and have a Chinese instead," she says. Many are no longer working for nightclubs.

'Hitting independent clubs hard'

Peter Marks, who runs Rekom UK - which includes the 42 Pryzm and Atik nightclubs - said the problem has been "building slowly but has become so much worse since the pandemic".

"It's been a real struggle at times but we've fortunately often been able to push back with security agencies to find the teams we need just in time.

"We are in a particularly strong position though as we can agree to take on staff in larger numbers - this is particularly hitting independent clubs hard," he added.

The NTIA has called on the government to do more through "funding training initiatives, streamlining new training requirements, or tackling shortages through legislation".

It wants temporary visas for EU workers to come and fill empty roles.

"Government must come to the table and look at these solutions we are putting forward as sector - this is a serious problem, which, if left alone, may lead to a tragedy."

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