Managing Conflict In Your Pub

“Nothing good ever comes from violence”  – Martin Luther

Pubs cater for different customers and occasions at different times of the week and throughout the day. Your pub operates in a highly regulated (some would say over-regulated) environment and through the licensing objectives you must ensure it’s run in a responsible way at all times. Your primary responsibility is to make sure customers and staff feel  secure, comfortable  and  relaxed .

Unfortunately human nature means that there is a very small minority of people in some communities who will resort to violence in certain situations or act in a way that elicits violence in others in your pub. Violence and aggression happens for any number of reasons, people get annoyed or upset by others, they might be seeking revenge or caught up in a fight or the victim of an attack and be acting in self-defence.

Bar staff and door supervisors might also be targeted for enforcing your policies on under-age sales, drunkenness, smoking, drug abuse, refusing entry, closing time or even the general standards of behaviour you expect customers to adhere to (swearing, dress code, loud/unruly behaviour).

Violence often involves  pushing, kicking  and the use of  fists  or the use of  improvised weapons  such as bottles, glasses, pool cues and furniture. In rare cases customers may deliberately carry guns and knives with the deliberate intention to cause injury.

Regrettably violence does occur but most disturbances or violent incidents will be diffused quickly and professionally by you and your staff. In order to guard against some individuals’ behaviour towards you, your staff or other customers, it is important a  full assessment of the risks  from violence is undertaken.

This guide seeks to set out the most common reasons violence occurs and to advise on the preventative measures you can take to minimise the potential for disorder.

As with all forms of risk assessments your one on violence should be reviewed on a regular basis, particularly in the light of any incidents that do occur. You can also use it to prepare an operating schedule for a licence application or variation.


Sad to say, many of us will have been in pubs when  “it all kicks off”  whether as a customer or a member of bar staff or as licensee. One thing I have found in common with most of the incidents of violence I have witnessed or been the victim of is in reality they can stem from the most  trivial of courses . The other common factor is that consumption of  alcohol (or misuse of drugs) has exacerbated the situation.

Think about things you can have a direct effect upon, over-crowding  and the discomfort it causes, the frustration of  waiting to get served, pushing to get to the bar and lavatories; bumping in a “bottle kneck” in your pub and  spilled drinks, failure to remove glasses and clear tables (let alone taking glasses that aren’t finished with). These are all things you can do something about, you can limit the numbers in your pub (in some instances your licence will dictate this); you can ensure you have sufficient staff on to meet the demands of your customers.  Good pub management  is about knowing your pub, your customers, your staff and what makes for a good night out not just keeping a good cellar and serving the perfect pint

Social tension and rivalry (football for instance, street / neighbourhood gangs); romantic entanglements (we’ve all seen what nightmares “ex’s” can be with each other;  sexual harassment , jealousy); the influence of  drugs or alcohol  taken before entry,  queues at the door  and refused entry;  ID checks  at the door or at the bar and the refusal to serve those underage or drunk or who are barred from your pub are things you can do little about except be aware of the problem and try to mitigate against the trouble they can cause.


The design and layout of your pub should be inviting and comfortable; this will provide an environment that minimises opportunities for violence and disorder. The  atmosphere  that you engender in your pub will have a huge effect on behaviour (for instance overly-loud music can make disorder more likely) and your willingness (or ability) to confront misbehaviour can make all the difference.

If you continually review your operating procedures (customer service, security and training) you will minimise your risk. You can increase staff awareness and training so they can work towards reducing risks;  BIIAB Qualifications : “Drug Awareness”, “Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing”, “Award in Conflict Management & Physical Intervention: Reducing Risk”; all invaluable in keeping a tidy house.

Have a clear policy of and let your customers know what you expect of them when they are in your pub (download warning notice on behaviour and drugs to customers ) publicise the existence and your use of  CCTV cameras  in operation and recordings saved & radio links to  Pubwatch  members.


Finally don’t be afraid to seek the assistance of the police. Many incidents can be dealt with quite adequately by you, your staff and in some circumstance by your customers (the latter you should discourage). My grandmother (who ran some really tough pubs in the East End of London) was a wise old bird and she always insisted “that the Old Bill were a landlady’s best friend”. Nip any trouble in the bud and don’t allow it to be commonplace and when you really need their help the police will oblige. Of course, by the same token, continually calling in the police to deal with every infraction without attempting to deal with it yourself can bring unwelcome attention to your pub. You have to get the balance right.

Continue reading… page 2