How liable are you if a fight starts outside your venue?

It seems as if high profile fights and other incidents outside nightclubs have been more common in 2018.

We’ve had the trial of England Cricketer, Ben Stokes, who was recently found not guilty of affray after a fight outside a Bristol nightclub. We’ve also recently heard of the arrest of England rugby player, Danny Cipriani, after a row with a nightclub doorman in Jersey.

In an age of social media, incidents outside nightclubs don’t even have to involve a famous person to become famous. In late July, a video of an Essex man punching a female night time reveller went viral. There was also a viral video of a brawl outside a club in Belfast.

We all know that fights outside clubs aren’t the norm. But when they do happen, they can attract unwanted attention to your club.

Sometimes, that attention might come from the police, who want to gain an understanding of the circumstances surrounding the fight. If the fight started outside your venue, but had nothing to do with your venue, you shouldn’t have a case to answer for.

But you may have some liability if the fight was a result of something that happened in your club, or an action taken by your club.

For instance, if the people involved in the fight were supplied with too much alcohol at your venue, that could be seen as a health and safety breach. Similarly, if there was obvious risk of a fight in the venue, and you did nothing to stop the violence, this could be seen as negligence as you ignored warnings.

As much as people fighting is rarely your fault, you do have a duty of care to keep the public safe, whether inside or outside your premises, if they’re your customer.

To avoid any breach of health and safety, or negligence claims falling at your door, here is a list of five things to remember if you fear violence might take place:

1.      Deal with the situation quickly

As soon as you notice a situation arising, make sure your security staff are aware and contact the police if necessary. Keep a close eye on the individuals involved and consider limiting their future alcohol intake.

2.      Keep the individuals involved apart

It was once advised that individuals who are fighting should just be ejected from the nightclub, at which point they were the police’s problem. This isn’t the case. It’s important that you keep other club goers safe, but ejecting all violent parties merely moves the problem and you could be found negligent. Consider how you can remove them separately so they no longer come into contact, or use a holding room to house one of the parties until the police arrive.

3.      Temporarily stop serving alcohol

This is never an ideal situation, but is sometimes necessary if things are out of control. Once the incident is dealt with, you may want to appease other customers with a free shot or something similar.

4.      Don’t tolerate bad behaviour

Yes, people to come to nightclubs to let their hair down, but that doesn’t give them license to be anti-social. Fights very rarely escalate out of nothing; there has usually been some tell-tale signs in the build-up. If someone is misbehaving in your club after warnings, eject them.

5.      Keep a record of every incident

Many venues hold an incident book along-side their accident book which allows them to keep a record of situations that perhaps haven’t resulted in injury but still need noting.  You may wish to obtain statements from your door staff or other employees that witnessed the incident so that you have full contemporaneous notes should these be required at a later date.

Making sure that you take the right cautionary approach to any violence will ensure that you aren’t liable for negligence and health and safety claims. If you’d like to discuss anything you’ve read here in further details, send us a message today by clicking on ‘contact us’ at the top of this page.