Students express concerns over bouncer behaviour

  • Over half of students report experiencing ‘aggressive’ bouncers
  • 71 per cent of incidents described as ‘unnecessary’ or ‘excessive’
  • Unit 1 most frequently cited club for incidents

Concerns have been raised by University of Exeter students about ‘aggressive’ conduct of nightclub security in Exeter nightclubs, an Exeposé investigation has revealed.

Over half of  students who responded to an Exeposé survey stated that they had experienced or witnessed aggression from bouncers whilst living in Exeter. Of these students, 71 per cent said that they believed the force used was ‘unnecessary’ or ‘excessive.’ Nearly three quarters of the incidents reported occurred within the last year.

The most frequently cited club for experiences of bouncer aggression was Unit 1 (previously known as Arena), with 48 incidents being raised with regard to the club. This was followed by Timepiece, with 24 complaints made about the Castle Street venue.

Exeposé also contacted students to ask them about their personal experiences of nightclub security. One anonymous first year Law student described bouncers at Unit 1 as “physically aggressive,” and said they believed that, “the way in which they speak to students, or in general anyone attending is wholly unnecessary and entirely unprofessional.” Another student claimed to have been threatened with eviction from the same club after accidentally treading on a bouncers foot at an event last year. A spokesperson for Unit 1 said: “Unit 1 is the most popular student venue in the city, operating four student sessions a week and we have had really positive feedback from customers since our re-launch, following a six-figure investment.”

“As part of this investment, we have worked closely with our door security providers to ensure that our team is fully qualified and trained to the highest standards. We have also recruited a number of female door supervisors to make our entrance experience more female friendly.”

A common complaint described by respondents was the use of excessive force or violence by security towards students. One student claimed to have seen Timepiece bouncers drag a friend, who had been knocked unconscious, out of the nightclub “by the neck, dragging his unconscious legs along the floor” before “pinning him to the floor with their feet on his neck, and arms gripping his,” whilst another described being “quickly and firmly removed from the premises” when approaching a bouncer for medical attention after standing on a piece of glass.George Sloan, co-owner Timepiece nightclub said:”All complaints against door staff are taken very seriously. If I witnessed someone beinfg treated badly by a door staff member I would have no hesitation in letting them go.

“The whole club is covered with CCTV.  People are removed from the club in what I would hope to be a tactful manner and a non-aggressive way. Not a night passes where we don’t take someone who’s had too much to drink home. We have a waiting list for our door staff roles and we hire them all internally.”

Some students were more positive about their experience of bouncers. One student said they felt that the amount of force used by bouncers in Exeter was “completely justified,” going on to state, “the truth of the matter is that they don’t know what they are expecting and what people have possibly taken”.

The Lemon Grove, the Students’ Guild-run nightclub, came out favourably from the survey, with just eight per cent of complaints identifying the club as a venue where they had experienced aggressive behaviour from security. Lemon Grove security personnel are supplied by Tangent Security Agency, with whom the venue has had a relationship with for more than 20 years. In October 2013, Exeposé reported that two bouncers were dismissed from the club after multiple complaints from students. However, last week, the venue won the 2015 Exeter Best Bar None award for ‘Best Student Venue.’

Chris Young, Venue and Events Manager for the Students’ Guild, said: “The Lemon Grove team works very closely with our security personnel to ensure that all allegations of unnecessary force are investigated thoroughly and promptly.

“Whilst we have recently been recognised by Best Bar None for the quality of our security provision, I encourage any student who feels unhappy to speak to a member of the team.”

The Cavern, which hires their security staff internally, also performed well in the survey, with only ten per cent of complaints indentifying the venue as somewhere students had experienced bouncer aggression. A spokesperson told Exeposé: “We have a very strict policy on staff behaviour. Our main concern is the safety of customers, and the Cavern is a particularly safe environment.

“One can get unruly customers, and they are quickly asked to leave the premises. This is probably where anecdotes about heavy-handed behaviour come from, but there is always a valid reason why a person is refused entry. “I think it’s important to note that Exeter is the safest City in the UK to go out at night .”

All door staff at venues in the UK must hold a licence from the Security Industry Authority. Training for the licence takes 32.5 hours and covers issues such as behaviour, conflict management, search and arrest procedures, drug awareness, and crime scene preservation, licensing law, health and safety at work, physical intervention and emergency procedures. The licence must be renewed every three year.

Naomi Armstrong, VP Welfare and Diversity, commented: “Student welfare in pubs and clubs is extremely important and the Exeter Night Time Economy Group and Best Bar None scheme are valuable mechanisms for promoting customer welfare alongside a great experience.

“Regardless of venue, I would always encourage students to report any incidents so they can be investigated.”

Additional reporting by Susannah Keogh and Fiona Potigny, News Editors.

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