I recently stepped away from the business and I decided to share some random thoughts about the experience. Some of them are going to be offensive even if I don’t mean them to be but they’re based on what I’ve seen. I do want to give a little context first.
I started out ten or so years ago and worked a little over five years of that time at various spots in the Philadelphia area. The business changed radically over that time, and not for the better. I worked in a variety of contexts, and unlike a lot of other guys, there were places that I worked by myself.
I’m not going to sit here and present myself as the toughest guy out there. I was able to stay around because I didn’t fly off the handle a lot, I showed up on time, and I didn’t chase girls or drink up the bar. But I would have washed out a long time ago if I couldn’t fight or was afraid to stick my nose into things. Which leads to my first point.
1. If you can’t figure out why the bouncer is there, leave him alone.
Sometimes you’ll be at a place and you’ll see a little guy, or someone that looks like he’s fifty and you probably wonder why he’s there. Sometimes its just a bad hire and he’ll be gone in two weeks.
Or he’s an absolute terror that you should never mess with. Guys that have been around for a while have faced everything there is to face, big guys, athletes, thugs, drunk cops, MMA fans, martial artists, everything. All that experience adds up. They don’t get excited, they don’t get nervous, they just handle their business.
I remember running a small crew and they gave me this guy from South Philly. He was bald on top, average height and weight…and he was an absolute psycho. It took everything I had to keep him from absolutely killing people that got out of line. Conversely I worked with a modern day Adonis that spent one shift complaining about a hangnail.
Fighting bouncers is a terrible idea, but leave the old guys or little guys alone.
2. People should keep track of their friends.
There a lot of people now that hit the club or bar and immediately start partying with no idea where their friends are. Then at two or three in the morning, they start panicking when their friend doesn’t answer their text. Well…its too late now. Your girlfriend left an hour and a half ago with some creep that was waiting for a drunk girl, and he’s going to do some variety of sexual assault to her. I can stop some of it, but I can’t stop all of it. And frankly, its not my responsibility.
Its your job to protect yourself when you’re out, as opposed to getting helplessly drunk/high. Its also your job to make sure your friends don’t end up in a bad situation when they leave.
I remember walking home after a shift, and I passed a long driveway that was actually a pretty vicious incline from my perspective. At the top, I saw a drunken kid pass out. He rolled down the pavement like a tumbleweed. His clothes were ripped from the fall and he was bleeding everywhere. When he woke up he was incoherent. It was obviously hypothermia.
I watched him turn blue as I called for an ambulance. I put my jacket over him so he didn’t freeze to death. As they loaded him into an ambulance, his buddy showed up.
“Man,” he said. “I was looking for him.”
If you get drunk in winter and wander off without your jacket, you can get frostbite or hypothermia. Anything can happen. Just ask Shane Montgomery’s family. The best protection for people is if their friends know where they are. If you want to hook up with someone, just let them know before you catch a cab.
3. Bouncers have multiple jobs.
I cannot tell you how many middle-class kids have insulted me or my guys as they get thrown out of the club by telling us what they do, or what their salary is. Some guys are pretty blue-collar, but there are a lot of guys that bounce and have good day jobs. If you’re a big guy and you want to meet some girls and make a little side money, it makes sense. Don’t assume that I don’t have any money or education. In fact, you know nothing about my background, and maybe you should.
I remember a guy walking around the club with his dog-tags out, trying to pick up girls by telling them he had just come back from Afghanistan. A bouncer got in his face and told him to calm down and to tuck his tags in his shirt.
He got rude. He cursed the bouncer out and explained what sacrifices he had made for our freedom. What he didn’t know was that the bouncer was a Special Forces Captain who was home because he had taken some shrapnel in the abdomen. As an officer he had a clear line of communication to the guy’s superior officer…which he used. That guy was in for hell when he reported back. Lesson is, you have no idea what we do. You might not make more than we do, and also, because you’re drunk you peed yourself and haven’t figured it out yet.
4. A fight in your place is a complete failure.
If you like to fight or want to prove yourself, this is the wrong job for you. Things have changed. That kid that is crazy aggressive and wants to fight you in the middle of the street? The moment he actually takes a bit of damage he’s going to try to sue you, and if they’re too broke to get a lawyer, they might get a gun. (But mostly they’ll try to sue.) The system is set up so people don’t have to take responsibility for anything they do anymore.
You bring liability to your bar every time some idiot fights. Guys like fights, but girls don’t, and guys go where girls do, so fights kill business. In my state, every time the police get called it goes against your liquor license. and you could get the place closed down if you’re considered a ‘nuisance bar,’ which is a really arbitrary designation.
The more you fight, the higher the odds are that you’ll lose a fight. Every time you lose a fight, you plant a seed in people’s minds that you can be beaten, and for some guys there is no bigger trophy then saying they knocked out the bouncer. And even a fight you win still could get you hurt and those injuries add up. Black eye? Busted hand? Well, you’re going to be back working in a couple days so I hope you heal like Wolverine.
5. The secret to my job is just being nice.
If I’m calm, everyone is calm. If you’re just nice, most people are accommodating, mostly because you’re bigger than them. And you end up meeting people. I can’t tell you how many celebrities or important people I was able to deal with because I didn’t walk around trying to act tough.
You being decent to everyone is good for the business. Even kicking someone out, if its not busy and no one is being too aggressive explain to their friends why the person has to go. It goes a long way. People will go peacefully and they’ll come back when they’re sober.
6. Don’t expect a long-term relationship anywhere near a bar
I’ve seen some relationships work, especially with married people and my one consistent exception is if both parties work at the same bar. But mostly I’ve seen hot messes.
As a customer, you go to bars and clubs to hook up, if you’re expecting anything else, you’re in for a disappointment. It sounds basic, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen that were surprised when the object of their affections didn’t call them back afterwards. Of course they didn’t. The transaction was completed.
Dating someone that works in a bar/club? I don’t know how to tell you this but there is always someone hitting on us. A Bartender’s job is to connect to patrons because basically anyone can just pour a drink and give it to someone. There has to be something else. And sometimes that gets out of hand. Managers have to face a lot of ‘friends,’ the staff they hire that they end up getting close to and random women/men. And bouncers?
If you can’t get women as a bouncer, kill yourself. Most of the time I worked I was married. I have a great wife and a great situation and there was still temptation out there. There were certainly guys that got hit on a lot more than me. It adds up.
Its not realistic to expect the average person to be faithful with that many options and in this business, the options are constant.
7. Fighting is mostly mental.
There are always two things I think about when I go into a shift: that someone might have a weapon, and that I am outnumbered and someone is always going to be coming from my blindside. I am mentally prepared for both and that’s the difference for me.
If you see me walking around in plain-view, I’m just observing what’s going on or I want to know who is going to be trouble later. After that, I stay out of sight because there’s nothing more overwhelming than thinking there’s no bouncer and then suddenly being on the floor because he came from your blind side.
I ambush people because I know I’m outnumbered. This is the most important part. If there are a bunch of guys standing there about to fight, and I show up, they have a decision to make.
Do they try to fight me? What are the consequences of that?
Last week, there was a fight between four guys and I jumped in the middle of it. There was a fifth guy that came from my left, and I grabbed him, put in him in a bit of a collar choke with my left and then put a joint lock on with my right. He started screaming and went down and I dragged him off. No one even twitched even I came back. That happened because I took the guy down immediately and he was in obvious pain. If he had landed a punch on me, took me down, they would have all gotten beer muscles and jumped me.
See crowds are big dumb animals. If you make an example out of the first person that does anything, everyone else will back down. That first guy determines everything.
That’s just one example, but there’s a thought process behind what I do. In the old days, you could just go all out and beat people, but things have changed, so you have to think a little more tactically.
Bouncing can be decent. When I started you made more money, but fundamentally, it was the same place I went to to have dinner and a couple of drinks, except now they were paying me. There’s a potential to meet a lot of people and have a lot of fun. If you were going to do it now, I would say be very cautious. If you hang around long enough, you’ll learn a lot.