DC Bouncers Learn How to Prevent, Respond to Terrorism

Some restaurants are reconsidering putting knives and glasses on tables; they can be used as weapons

What to Know

  • Local restaurant, bar and nightclub bouncers will attend an hourlong class Tuesday to prepare them to respond to an attacker.
  • Their instructor, Robert Smith, will speak about lessons from the 2015 Paris attacks, Pulse shooting and Manchester suicide bombing.
  • Participants will learn how to recognize a weapon, monitor disruptions in and outside a club and stay on their guard.

Be aware of sharp knives on the tables, monitor the streets outside the club and never let your guard down, especially near last call.

These are some of the tips Robert Smith said he would give D.C. restaurant, bar and nightclub bouncers in an hourlong class Tuesday night. The goal: Prepare them to respond if an attacker strikes inside a D.C. bar.

“You have to think of everything as a deadly weapon,” Smith said he tells bouncers.

Smith, a 20-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department and the owner of Nightclub Security Consultants, has been teaching terrorism response as one component of a larger two-day security training for six years.

The latest version of the training is longer. Smith packed his session Tuesday with real-life security lessons from the 2015 Paris attacks, the Pulse shooting in Orlando and the suicide bombing at Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester. 

“The more you hear, the less tunnel vision you get when it does happen,” Smith said.

Participants zoom in on “intense” police body camera footage from Pulse, analyzing how employees could have blocked the shooter’s entry and their response when the shooter opened fire, Smith said.

Bouncers learn how knives, readily available in restaurants and less scrutinized than guns, can easily arm a terrorist.

Smith said he has seen restaurants hold back on providing silverware until a customer orders to lower the safety risk. One club starting using shatter-resistant acrylic glasses rather than glass because they can’t be as easily used as weapons. 

“As incidents around the world happen, we take those incidents and turn them into training moments,” Smith said.

Shielding guests from an aggressor is the bouncer’s role, he said.

He advises bouncers to monitor disruptions right outside and near the club’s door. Employees should know CPR and first aid and have the supplies to act in an emergency. All should follow government guidelines to run, hide and fight back against an attacker.

“We can’t let ourselves fall asleep,” Smith said. “We have to know this is a new world we live in.”

Roughly 35 people were expected to participate in the class Tuesday at Ultrabar, including security employees from Penn Social, a D.C sports bar and entertainment venue that can hold nearly 500 people.

Sara Norman, the venue’s general manager, said Smith equips her staff to act in an emergency. 

“If you’re prepared, you’re not scared,” Norman said. “If you know what to do, you don’t have to worry about it.”

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