Researchers examine disorder over one year in a Montreal nightclub

Official statistics may mask a piece of reality. And when it comes to disorder and assaults that occur in nightclubs, they virtually hide the real atmosphere of these establishments and the associated risks. This is brought to light by researchers at the School of Criminology of the Université de Montréal in a study recently published in the Journal of Substance Use and conducted in a Montreal nightclub (whose name cannot be revealed for ethical reasons).


Indeed, the researchers collected information about each incident reported by bouncers in which the latter were required to intervene. They noted the circumstances surrounding the disorder or assaults and the nature of the bouncers' interventions, while the owners of the bars took note of the number of customers each night and the amount of drinks sold.

Sex, drugs, and... urine

In the end, the UdeM researchers analyzed critical incidents occurring over 258 evenings at the nightclub from April 2006 to April 2007.

In all, nearly 800 incidents were recorded by the bouncers, including 242 verbal or physical attacks, of which 40% were directed against the bouncers (threats, shoving, etc.), and 547 incidents of non-threatening yet objectionable incivility to other customers (drug use, sex in the toilet, objects thrown on the ground, erratic behaviour, urinating in a corner of the room, etc.). These figures do not appear in any official reports, because bar owners do not like to deal with law enforcement.

Terrible Tuesdays!

According to Rémi Boivin, assistant professor in the School of Criminology at the UdeM and lead author of the study, Tuesdays were by far the busiest nights at the nightclub under study. In fact, the 10 most dispruptive nights in the year all occurred on a Tuesday.

Of course, since Tuesdays were theme nights, they attracted the greatest number of customers and the greatest consumption of alcohol, especially beer. On these nights, each customer consumed on average 9.5 drinks!

“Not surprisingly, the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per customer is a significant predictor of disorder in a bar,” says Rémi Boivin. “In the nightclub we studied, Tuesdays were the evenings in which we observed the most assaults and inelegant behaviours such as sleeping on tables, collapsing on the floor, verbally threatening staff, or fondling waitresses.”

Bouncers: a predominantly economic role

According to Boivin, this was the first time an establishment serving alcohol was subject to systematic observation, over an entire year, to assess the nature and variation of incidents occurring there.

For owners of nightclubs and establishment with liquor licences, the study highlights the importance of adopting ethical service practices (not serving someone who has obviously drunk too much) while providing for a sufficient number of adequately trained bouncers.

In terms of research, however, the study especially reveals that official statistics cannot be relied on to measure the number and magnitude of acts of mischievousness that occur in these establishments: of the nearly 800 misconducts reported by the bouncers, only one or two required police intervention.

How to explain this discrepancy between official statistics and reality?

“One of the bouncers perfectly summed up the situation,” explains Boivin. “He observed that his role is to maintain an environment safe enough for customers to spend as much as possible.”

Since they are primarily concerned with the profitability of nightclubs, bouncers have an interest in avoiding police intervention, which can adversely affect business...

Suds and pucks!

Several factors had an influence on the atmosphere of the bar studied by Rémi Boivin and his colleagues. Besides the quantity of alcohol consumed and the number of customers, the latter's age and regularity in frequenting the establishment influenced the number of undesirable acts.

But one factor in particular was scientifically validated by the study: when the Montreal Canadiens won a match, the customers arriving at the nightclub after the game committed fewer attacks than when the Habs lost!

1. Rémi Boivin et al., «Nightly variation of disorder in a Canadian nightclub», Journal of Substance Use, vol. 1, no 6, 2013.

This article is a translation of a document originally published in French by Martin LaSalle