Bar Shield knows the type of patron entering establishment before a problem occurs.

By Lisa MacDonald

As Matt Brink fruitlessly combed security footage to find the troublemaker who’d been ejected from his bar, he told himself there had to be a better way. Frustrated that no product or service existed to track who’d been in his bar – or warn him who was coming in before trouble erupted — he did what many an entrepreneur before him had done: he invented his own.

Brink, a 10-year bar industry veteran from Madison, Wisconsin, wanted to create a solution that would improve upon ID scanning solutions currently on the market and add that missing, invaluable layer: real-time data on a patron’s behavior in his own and other establishments. His solution: Bar Shield, an app that combines front-end functionality including ID scanning, challenge questions to verify ID, and headcount, with “bar records” – a database of flagged infractions (fights, fake ID, harassment, weapons, theft, skipped tabs, etc.) that appear when the customer’s ID is scanned. The cloud-based ID scanner syncs every venue in the network across the US and Canada in one searchable database.
“[Bar Shield] gives owners the ability to see who is coming in,” says Brink. “It strips away the anonymity and gives them as much information as possible.”

As an added level of proactive protection, Bar Shield also gives staff the ability to flag an iffy patron with a one-day, one-location auto-expiring “warning” so their record is easily recallable in the event of a problem. Its next version, due later this year, will sync multiple handheld devices for establishments with multiple entrance points, providing accurate, real-time headcount data.
It appears that Brink has struck a deep chord in the nightclub and restaurant industry. “When we explain the product to owners, their eyes light up,” says Brink. Usage statistics bear out that initial excitement: since its launch in late 2013, 92% of venues that try the app have converted to paying customers.

Positioning the company for its next iteration, Brink has applied to a tech incubator (he will be bringing development in-house) and is preparing to meet with VC firms. His current team is working on optimizing Bar Shield for concert venues, outdoor festivals and other large scale events where alcohol is served.

Brink sees the primary benefit of Bar Shield as preventative: security knows the type of patron entering establishment before a problem occurs, and patrons – aware that they are being scanned – are more likely to enjoy themselves responsibly. Establishments using the app have seen a marked decrease in violations. One customer saw violations drop 83% in just four weeks.

“For venues that serve alcohol, we’ve never been given a tool other than ‘please drink responsibly’”, says Brink. “This is the first time [owners and managers] have a tangible tool to help.”
Bar Shield, free to download in the Apple App Store, works with iPhone 5 and later and iPad 3 and later versions. It has a free trial with a $39.99 monthly subscription fee thereafter. A laser scanner accessory is required to scan magnetic strip IDs ($550) and the company will ship pre-loaded iPod touches for an additional $270 to establishments that need them. www.barshieldapp.com