Managing Conflict In Your Pub – page 2 

Understanding Drunkenness & Dealing With It

It is vital that you and your staff understand the five stages of becoming drunk and they are shown below, albeit in a ‘humorous’ way to help you remember them this is none the less a serious guide to the main stages of getting drunk.


This is when they suddenly become your very own Stephen Fry and know everything there is to know about everything. Because they know they know everything, they will wish to impart this knowledge to anyone who will listen. At this stage they are always right, and, of course, the person they are talking to is very wrong. This can make for an ‘interesting’ argument when both parties are clever-clogs.

People who are in the clever-clogs stage may well become very chatty and more confident than normal.

Stage 2 – GORGEOUS

This is when they think that they are the prettiest or best looking person in the entire bar and that complete strangers ‘want’ them. They often go up to perfect strangers thinking they want them and really want to talk to them. Bear in mind that they are still clever-clogs at this point, so they can talk to this person about any subject under the sun.

They will often move around the bar trying to talk to strangers often wanting to be everybody’s friend. It is at this stage other customers can get annoyed with this particular customer.


This is when they suddenly become the richest person in the world. They may try to buy drinks for the entire bar because they have “loads of money”. They may also make bets at this stage, because of course; they are still clever-clogs, so naturally believe they will win all their bets. It doesn’t matter how much they bet because they are a moneybags. They will also buy drinks for everyone that they fancy, because now they are gorgeous.

They might have realised that they are not going to be the most popular person in the bar just by chatting to people alone so they often resort to offering complete strangers drinks.  They are often quite insistent that people take drinks off them which can be quite annoying to other customers; especially strangers.


They may now be ready to pick fights with anyone and everyone especially those with whom they have been betting or arguing. This is because they believe nothing can hurt them.  At this point they may also go up to the partners of the people who they fancy and challenge them to a battle of wits or money. They have no fear of losing this battle because they are clever-clogs, moneybags and they are more gorgeous than the partners are anyway!

Confidence levels have grown to new heights at this stage; they are now friends with everyone in the bar, because they bought them drinks.  They know what they are made of and may be looking to have a fight.

Stage 5 – NINJA

This is the final stage of drunkenness. At this point they feel they can do anything because no one can see them. They might dance on a table, for instance, to impress the people who they fancy because the rest of the people in the room cannot see them. If they have provoked conflict with another customer, they may also think they are also invisible to the person who wants to fight them. They can stand outside your pub singing at the top of their lungs because no one can see or hear them and because they’re still a clever-clogs and (think) they know all the words.

At this stage inhibition is totally gone they think they can do anything… this can be a very dangerous stage indeed..

‘Pre-Loading’ and the Delayed Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol affects different people in different ways and may have a lag time of about an hour when it comes to showing its effects, that is to say that what a person drinks does not take immediate effect it takes some time to get into the system and change things.  So a person who has been drinking heavily for the previous hour may appear to be reasonably sober and then, quite suddenly, their mood can change often missing out a couple of stages. Remember a ‘happy drunk’ can also be the proverbial nightmare for you and the change can be brought on by as little as a look, gesture or word.

As well as the signs illustrated in the stages above a person who is getting drunk may display physical signs such as slurred speech, laughing a lot, stumbling and forgetfulness.

You and your staff should monitor and control customers’ different stages of getting drunk; remember under the Licensing Act 2003, it’s an offence to serve someone who is drunk.  You should be aware each stage of drunkenness has its own risk level of violence breaking out.

You and your staff should be firm and in control at all times, bad language (by you, your staff or customers) should not be tolerated at anytime.

You and your staff have the power to refuse service and no member of staff should override a decision to refuse service made by another member staff.  Again, the law states that no drunken person should be served with alcohol.

Prevention is best achieved with good monitoring, a reasonable anticipation of ‘trouble’ and a timely intervention.

Keeping An Eye On Things

One of the secrets of professional pub management is monitoring what is going on in the whole of your premises at all times, whilst it isn’t possible for you to be everywhere all the time you can reduce the risk of conflict by keeping an eye on things going on in and around your pub. One way is to have your CCTV monitor (or an additional monitor to your office based system) behind the bar. Good signage about the existence of CCTV coverage in your pub and customers seeing a monitor behind the bar can often instil good patterns of behaviour in your patrons,

Good monitoring is achieved by being alert as to what customers are doing including what they are talking about, how much they have had to drink and where they are in the premises, this includes not just the bar, but also toilets and (if you have them) outside drinking areas.

An effective way of monitoring is to get out from behind the bar and to walk around the pub collecting empty glasses and bottles as you go.  Not only will you be removing potential weapons but you will also have the opportunity to monitor what is happening in areas not visible from behind the bar.

Team work is essential to good monitoring and you should always share information with your members of staff especially at shift handovers. They should also be encouraged to talk to each other about anyone they feel may be a potential source of conflict within the pub and bring that person to each others, and your, attention.

The Three Ls

Look – watch what is going on in the premises and not just the immediate bar area.

Listen – bad language, raised voices and threats are obvious signs that trouble may be about to break out.  Slurred speech, excessive laughing or singing can be other signs someone is advancing through the stages of getting drunk. What you hear can often tell you far more than what you see.

Learn – Always share information with members of your staff, check the incident book and banned list.  Always update other staff at a shift handover. Encourage them to alert each other, and you, to potential ‘troublemakers’.

Prevention & Cure

Service should be refused for customers who are displaying signs of being drunk and people who arrive in a drunken sate should not be served; if you employ door-supervisors, they should be under strict instructions not to allow people who are already drunk into your pub. ‘Pre-loading’ or drinking heavily at home before visiting the pub is becoming an increasing problem for licensees, even those in pubs who experience little or no ‘trouble’.  Unless you or your staff happen to overhear customers describing how much they have had to drink whilst getting ready for their big night out, you will have no way of telling at which stage a person who arrives drunk has reached.

Anyone who appears to be under the age of 18 (or older, if you adopt a ‘Challenge 21/25″ policy) should be asked for ID and checks made.

Early intervention is key to prevention if you see or hear something going on that could lead to a violent situation then you should try to intervene as soon as is practicable.

Be firm but not rude and take the offender to one side and explain your concerns to them and what you expect them to do or stop doing as the case may be. If they will not cooperate then you should ask them to leave. By taking them to one side you prevent them from playing to a crowd and give them a chance to calm down without losing face. If they refuse to follow you to a quieter area then simply but politely ask them to drink up and leave – without explanation – then walk away to a quiet area, where,  they may well be inclined to follow you.  You can then explain why they are being asked to leave.

Inform your staff at the earliest possible moment of what is happening and what you intend to do.  All staff should support each other and you in such situations.

Should the customer become aggressive or verbally abusive and you believe you cannot manage or contain the situation, then back away to a point of safety and summon help from either other members of staff or summon the assistance of the police by dialling 999.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, you should not engage other customers in your intervention.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, you should not become physically involved with the customer in your attempt to deal with the situation. If  physical intervention does become necessary, then remember, you should only use ‘reasonable force’ and any physicality involved may well have to be justified to the police and/or the courts.

Top Tips

Avoid pointing your finger at the customer, respect their ‘personal space’ and stand at an angle to them so as to avoid a ‘head to head’ confrontation. Keep your voiced measured and calm and avoid unnecessary hand gestures as these may be misinterpreted as threatening by someone who is drunk.

Even though you may have seen it on TV or in the movies, do not under any circumstances keep (or use) any kind of weapon behind the bar, such as a baseball bat or pix-axe handle. Threatening a customer with such a weapon is an arrestable offence.

The mere threat of summoning the police or audibly instructing a member of staff (or another customer) to call for police assistance may well be enough to prevent escalation of a situation, as the customer may be coherent enough to comply with your request to leave or desist from whatever they are doing.

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