Members of the Cayman Islands Liquor Licensing Board heard welcome news about improving security in and around nightclubs during its annual session last week.
In June, as a result of a spate of reports of violence, underage drinking, noise and other disturbances, the Liquor Licensing Office sent a letter setting some new security conditions to all nightclubs and other establishments that operated with music and dancing until 2 am.
In updating the Board about the Next Level nightclub, licensee Christian Sorensen said the newly implemented conditions were having an impact on the security incidents in and around the club.
‘Overall, the incidents appear to be a lot more minor in nature,’ he told the board.
Among other things, the nightclubs were asked to improve their lighting both inside and outside their establishments; to install closed-circuit television cameras inside and outside; to only accept a valid driver’s license or passport as a legitimate form of identification; to better manage the music volume of DJs; and to ensure all patrons leave the premises, including the parking lot, at closing time.
Mr. Sorensen was not required to attend the meeting, but did so voluntarily to update board members on the security situation at the Next Level. The nightclub, along with several others, was put on probation in 2007 and was taken off earlier this year.
‘I came as a courtesy to the board,’ Mr. Sorensen said later. ‘They like to hear reporting from the clubs.’
Mr. Sorenson said Next Level already had several of the requested security features in place prior to the Liquor Board’s June letter, including CCTV, metal detector wands and devices that controlled the music volume of DJs. Still, Next Level acted on the board’s request on other areas, such as lighting.
‘We already had lighting, so it wasn’t like there was complete darkness,’ Mr. Sorensen told the Caymanian Compass. ‘But we understand the more light there is, the less likely there will be any problems.’
Next Level adding more lighting both inside and outside the club, including construction-grade spotlights on the roof of the building that illuminate the parking lot and other areas around the nightclub.
In response to the board’s requests for tighter identification standards, Next Level changed its policy to require everyone have identification.
‘We’ve always ID’d at the door, but we’ve gotten stricter and tightened it up,’ he said, adding that the club now requires every patron, regardless of their apparent age or if they are known by security, to show one of the two forms of accepted identification.
The move initially caused some problems at the club.
‘A lot of the customers were upset at first, but now they’re getting used to it,’ Mr. Sorenson said, adding that similar ID requirements are standard practice now in nightclubs in the United States and Canada. ‘It puts everyone on the same playing field.’
Next Level also took on the board’s requests with regard to better identifying security guards.
‘They were always identified, but we’ve printed the word security larger so they are more easily identified,’ Mr. Sorensen said.
Liquor Licensing Board Chairman Mitchell Welds was impressed with Next Level.
‘I commend you for your efforts,’ he said. ‘I had an opportunity to visit your nightclub recently and security looks pretty tight there.’
Deputy Chair Lynn Bodden also praised the substantial decrease in incidents at Next Level.
‘Every club should follow their lead because they’re doing it right,’ she said.
Next Level was not the only nightclub that reported to the board at the meeting. Michael Chambers, the premises manager for O Bar, also voluntarily appeared.
Mr. Chambers admitted that there were incidents than usual around the nightclub that resulted in the police being called more often over the past six months. He said an altercation with the Queens Court security company had contributed to the problem, but that he thought that situation had been resolved.
Mr. Welds said that he had recently visited the club and witnessed a fight outside the club were six men were beating one guy on the ground. He noted that the O Bar security officer did not try to intercede for considerable time. Mr. Chambers said he was unaware of the incident, but suggested the security guard did not want to leave the door unattended, so he had to wait until someone else could come to the door before he could act. The board suggested that perhaps two guards could be put at the door to alleviate such situations.
Other efforts to tighten security outside of O Bar met with praise from the board, including the use of a canine security unit between the hours of midnight and 4am and the trimming of trees outside the club to make the area more visible.
Mr. Chambers noted that not all the incidents that occurred in the Queens Court parking area were attributable to patrons of O Bar – there are other licensed premises there and other people sometimes come to loiter outside – but that it was usually O Bar that got blamed regardless.
The board also urged O Bar to purchase a metal detector wand, something it currently does not have. Mr. Chambers said the units would have to be purchased off island and that he would look into them.
Mr. Sorensen said Friday Next Level had a metal detecting wand, but was generally selective in using it.
‘If someone comes in with real baggy clothes or a jacket that could conceal something, we’re more likely to use it,’ he said, noting that a woman in a short skirt and tight-fitting top would be less likely to be checked with the wand.
Mr. Sorensen said Next Level had been using the wand for years and if done properly, caused little problem with customers.
‘If you do it in a nice way, politely and with a smile, people usually don’t have a bad reaction.’
Both Mr. Sorensen and Mr. Chambers reported that several incidents that had resulted in the police being called involved stolen purses or items stolen from purses. Often, women leave their purses when they go to dance, creating an opportunity for thieves, the board heard.
‘We encourage girls to leave their purses behind the bar; there’s no charge,’ said Mr. Chambers. ‘Nothing is sadder than, at the end of the night, a girl crying because her purse was stolen.’