FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Six bars in Fort Wayne are banning together to keep their customers and employees safe. They all have a new ID scanning system that can share ban lists to stop problem people from bar hopping and causing trouble at another bar.
“We want to provide safe establishments to have a good time. That’s it. We have employees to protect,” Bryce Fox, owner of Arena Bar & Grill, said.
Break & Run, Mitchell’s Sports Bar & Grill, Arena Bar & Grill, Corner Pocket Pub, Chevvy’s Pizza & Sports Bar and Pulver’s Pub are now using Tokenworks ID scanners. They’re connected by a cloud-based system.
“When folks get banned from one bar, they tend to gravitate and find another place that they can go and it’s been the experience of a lot of the bars that they continue the same conduct that got them banned from the other bar,” John Shank, one of Chevvy’s security officers, said.
Chevvy’s got the scanners two weeks ago. The first weekend in use, the system worked.
“It worked pretty flawless. It shows how many times they’ve been here and if it’s been scanned somewhere else that night. It also helps with passbacks – people coming through and someone behind them has a copy of their ID. It will say it was scanned and it’s like, ‘Hey somebody’s already in here with your name,'” Shank explained. “Saturday night, we scanned the ID of a young man and it popped up banned from one of the other bars. In the memo is says why he was banned. He’s like, ‘It has nothing to do with Chevvy’s’ and I said ‘It has everything to do with our bar because the conduct you had at that bar is not the conduct we want here either.'”
In that case, the person was banned from another bar for having illegal narcotic drugs.
Corner Pocket already used the ID scanners, but wasn’t connected to the cloud to share ban lists with other bars. It joined the network two weeks ago too.
“It went well. We had two or three pop-ups and we felt safer,” Karole Schnepp, Corner Pocket’s General Manager, said. “One was a little surprised, but the other two were understanding. It’s all about safety. Our goal is to keep our staff and customers as safe as possible.”
Break & Run got the ID scanners about three years ago to keep track of its own ban list.
“We can put in the scanner if they are banned or are on the VIP list or if they didn’t pay their tab. We have multiple people who work the door and not everyone can remember everyone,” Kirk Smith, owner of Break & Run, said.
The scanners made a difference in the pool bar almost immediately.
“You don’t get banned unless you get into a violent situation like a fight or you were rude to our employees, but it worked pretty fast narrowing down the violent people that come in the bar just to start trouble because there are people who just want to go in and start talking,” Smith said.
Mitchell’s Neighborhood Sports Bar & Grill got the ID scanning system four months ago and contacted Break & Run to see if they wanted to create the cloud system to share lists.
“All we want people to do is come in, have a good time, eat, drink and leave and come back. The people that want the same thing are going to appreciate this and that we’re doing this to protect them and our liability,” Todd Smith, owner of Mitchell’s, said.
As word got out that Mitchell’s and Break & Run were sharing a ban list, other bars wanted to join too.
The scanners cost around $1,000 and then a yearly $300 fee to be on the cloud system.
“That’s very, very cheap to have that added security,” Fox said.
The bars can also put into the scanners if someone didn’t pay their bill. That will then show up if that person tries to go to one of the other bars in the group.
“Friday night it popped up they had a tab at another bar and we said go to the other bar, pay your tab, they’ll remove you and come back. It’s just that easy. So, it helps all the bars with that too,” Shank said.
People who get banned from one of the bars, can talk to management about getting off the ban list, but only the initiating bar can remove them.
“Maybe give you a 60-day cooling off period or maybe 90 days and then it will come off automatically. We don’t want to ban people. We want people to come here and not be a knucklehead and don’t cause problems,” Todd Smith said.
Right now, there are around 500 people on the ban list. Most are from Break & Run during the three years they had the ID scanners without sharing the cloud. Reasons people are banned include fighting, having weapons or drugs, using a fake ID or ID passbacks or not paying their tab.
“I don’t want to have to ban anyone. I don’t want to have anyone arrested. But, if you come in here and act a certain way, it’s going to happen and now you’re going to be cut out of some of the best bars in Fort Wayne,” Fox said.
“You’re not 12 years old anymore and your conduct has consequences. If you’ve done something egregious enough to get banned from the bar, then you earned that badge, so to speak, and it’s up to you to go back to that bar and make amends,” Shank said.
To add even more security, Break & Run is adding a camera to the entrance of the shopping center where its located to document license plates of all vehicles that enter and leave.
“It’s terrible that we can’t just open our doors and say, ‘Come on in and have a good time.’ We don’t want to have to take all these measures,” Kirk Smith said.
He said having officers in the bar isn’t always enough either.
“People just don’t care. They’ll argue with our officers and push them right to the edge,” Kirk Smith said.
He’s also considering using a metal detector wand as people come into the bar.
Since Mitchell’s started wanding and patting people down a few months ago, security officers have found knives, pepper spray and a gun on people trying to get in, Todd Smith said.
The six bars in the ID scanner group hope more bars in Fort Wayne will join them.
“We want to make this community safe. We want to make our customers feel safe. We want to fight back and make it so safe for people to come into our clubs. I think it’s a great idea,” Kirk Smith said.
Some other bars in Fort Wayne use an ID scanner at their doors, but it’s not the same system to share lists with the ones in this group.