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Managing Bad Behaviour in your Pub

We have received a number of calls from members recently who have experienced bad behaviour in their pub that resulted in removing customers from the venue. Edited smartphone footage has then been used to make legal claims, several weeks after CCTV footage had been deleted. Without proof of the bad behaviour in question, you will leave yourself open to potential legal issues, so we have created the following guidance to ensure you can protect your pub, your teams and yourself.

In the lifecycle of a busy pub, you will inevitably have times where you have more customers visiting your venue than usual, whether it is an unexpected sunny day, Bank Holiday weekend, or for a sporting event, such as the upcoming Euros 24.

It’s important to be prepared for the behaviours you may have to deal with at these times, and to understand your rights as the operator or designated premises supervisor (DPS). We have collaborated with our Trusted Partners and Helpline providers, John Gaunt & Partners & Bhayani Law to give you some key guidance in this area.

You CAN turn large groups away if you feel you can’t accommodate them

If you have no table space, your venue is too crowded, or you feel that you can’t look after a large group, then you have the right to refuse them service. You will have occupancy stipulated within your fire risk assessment and you always need to be aware of reservations you may have for later in the day. You also have obligations under Health and Safety legislation to ensure the area occupied by the public is safe. It is best practice to explain the reason for the group being turned away so there is no confusion as to why that decision has been made. 

Refusal of service

You are within your rights to refuse service to any individuals who are disruptive, aggressive or behaving inappropriately. Again, it is important that all staff feel capable and supported to make this decision. If the refusal is related to any individuals that are excessively drunk, it is important that this is recorded. 

Bring more staff in for the event and consider having a security presence

It isn’t always possible to have more staff on shift, but if you know the pub will be very busy, then do try to ensure you have adequate resource to support you, and your team. Even if you don’t have a regular security presence, consider the event or occasion you are hosting and whether it would be an appropriate step.

Enhanced training

Training around conflict management and how to deal with difficult situations calmly and professionally is useful, especially for less experienced members of your team. Diversity and vulnerability training is also highly recommended to ensure you are caring for all of your customer demographics.

A record should be kept of all staff training undertaken (including details of course and its objectives) as a useful tool to show the steps being taken by you as an operator to keep you staff and customers safe at your premises. 
Tackle behaviours, not individuals

When you experience unacceptable behaviours in your venue, remember to address the behaviour itself and NOT the individual or group of individuals involved. When incidents occur, remain calm and professional at all times and ensure that you are mindful of all of your customers– any action you take should be centred on the unacceptable behaviour they have displayed, and not on who they are.

Document any incidents

This is a vital step. If you have any incidents, you must document them in writing as soon as possible after the event. When documenting incidents in writing, ensure that all and any staff members involved are also noted down should evidence need to be gathered at a later date. A contemporaneous and detailed incident report is a strong and reliable piece of evidence in any potential legal proceedings.  As a belts and braces approach you could have more than one member of staff involved to sign the incident report. 

If you have CCTV, ensure that you save and keep any footage/recordings you have for at least 6 months following the incident. With everyone having access to smartphones, you need to have proof of anything that has happened, to counteract any potentially edited footage.

Don’t assume that you can delete footage after a week or so, as you may need it in the case of recurring issues or potential legal action.

Establish a good relationship with local law enforcement

Ensure you have good local connections where possible and consider joining your local Pubwatch scheme or engage with Best Bar None, who can support you with safer socialising in your local community.

Have good relations and lines of communication with other venues in your immediate area so if trouble starts elsewhere you are aware and can take appropriate action to avoid it migrating to your venue.

If you have any concerns about behaviour in your venue, then you can contact our helplines and speak to our team, who will signpost you to the right expert guidance.

BII Helpdesk – 01276 684449

Legal & Licensing Helpline – John Gaunt & Partners  
0330 058 3878 – Option 2

HR & Employment Law (can also advice on Diversity and Vulnerability) 
0330 058 3878 – Option 1

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