Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bouncers, Bar Rooms and Beers

Tom Schreck is the author OUT COLD and the other Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries

When I got out of college the first job I got was as a doorman at a popular bar. I say “doorman” for two reasons. The first reason: real “bouncers” don’t call themselves “bouncers”. The “work the door”. Identifying yourself as a bouncer is akin to saying you are a badass.

The second reason; the place I worked the door wasn’t exactly Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse. it was a popular Friday night hangout with bands, state workers and lots of twenty and thirty somethings getting out of work.

I had gotten my black belt in college and thought this would be career track I’d be qualified for.

Here’s what I learned:

1. The best way to stop trouble in a bar is to prevent it. A dress code helps, so does the absence of low brow drink specials like 5 cent beers or “Kamikaze nights”.

2. A guy working the door should ask patrons to take the hunting knives off their belt, leave their motorcycle helmet ( a great weapon) and anything else with him at the door.

3. You should not act like a bad ass. You should act like a pleasant greeter and concierge. You should be assertive and clear but not aggressive.

4. The key to addressing problem behavior is to give respect. You don’t want to give the patron reason to escalate.

5. When you have to throw someone out for being drunk and stupid you blame it on the bar manager. You approach the offending parties and say. “Fellas, hey, the manager tells me you guys gotta go. It’s not my call. He can be kind of a prick about and if you don’t he’ll call the cops.”

6. When you walk to the door with someone you’re throwing out keep a hand by your face. Fix your hair, scratch your nose, rub your chin–whatever. You want a hand in position to block a sucker punch.

7. If you have to wear a tie, wear a clip on. You don’t want something tied around your neck and dangling in a fight.

8. A bar fight will start like this. Two or more men will begin to get loud. Cursing will ensue. Inevitably, someone will start to shove, followed by wide swinging punches or attempts to tackle. You want to intervene before or during the shove if you can’t get their during the argument. Once someone has gotten between the two combatants everything will escalate. The two know there won’t be a fight so they will thrash around and act like they are out of control. This is a macho ego thing.

(Note:If you want to hurt someone, nothing beats the sucker punch. Don’t get loud, don’t start with shouting and build into something. Simply walk up and punch the guy in the face when he doesn’t expect it. That’s efficient.)

9. Bartenders and rookie doormen often make the problem worse by jumping over the bar, knocking over tables and pushing non-offending patrons. They are caught up in the macho scene and want to get their 15 seconds of badassdom.

It makes the matter worse.

10. If a patron tries to hit you it will probably be underwhelming. The general public isn’t good at fighting. Usually, the punches will come in wide loops and, with very little training at all you, will be able to get inside it. Most people don’t know that the best punches travel about 12 inches in a straight line.

Here’s an important point: You have no legal standing to hit someone as a doorman.

One of my last nights on the door this American Princess came up to me and said, “This guy at the bar is, like, really, bothering me and he, like, won’t stop. Can you do something? Oh, and, like, he’s got a gun.”

I was making minimum wage and decided it was time to explore another career path.


Keith Raffel said...

Tom, So which is more dangerous and lucrative -- working the door or working the laptop?

G.M. Malliet said...

Love the image of the bartender leaping into the fray. It always works in Westerns, doesn't it?

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Very useful and colorful advice, Tom. Wish I'd had it when I bartended at a beer-only dive in my early 20's. Though I couldn't have cleared the top of the bar if an aligator was nipping at my ass.

Cricket McRae said...

Good info, Tom -- for the next time I'm in a bar fight (unlikely) or the next time one of my characters is (far more likely).

Darrell James said...

You paint a vivid picture, Tom. I know because, embarassingly, I've been on the other end of the "work-the-door" process a couple of time. Thanks for the trip back in time.

Sheila Deeth said...

Fascinating! Sounds like another path was a good idea.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I had no idea doormen didn't call themselves bouncers!

Really interesting post, Tom. It makes me both wish I had a more interesting life and glad that I don't!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Deborah Sharp said...

My brother owned bars, worked in bars, bar-tended for many years. Tom's post about heading off problems before they start is spot on. And liquor and guns? Bad combo!
Bottom's up ....

Beth Groundwater said...

Very interesting and entertaining post, Tom! I'd say you got out of that career at the right time. :)