We've all been there. You spend hours getting ready, show up late to the pregame, struggle to get your already drunk friend into a cab, and immediately start quizzing each other on the details of your fake IDs on the way to the club.
Everything you ever learned in drama class kicks in as you memorize the address and postal code of your co-worker's brother's ex-girlfriend. Frantically trying to calculate their correct horoscope sign as your mind races to thoughts of being arrested for identity theft and underage drinking. Or, worst case scenario, you end up wasting that $50 you spent on a fake ID when it gets taken away as soon as you try to use it.
While I was lucky enough to inherit my older sister's ID and got into all the bars and clubs with no problem, once when I tried to get into an all ages club with my actual ID, I got turned down and shoved by a bouncer who was clearly power tripping.
But getting kicked out once you've made it in is even worse. As you're being pulled away by the bouncers, your squad has to decide who gets to continue chugging vodka crans and who will be the designated party mom for the night (I usually fill that role by default). That person has to take your drunk ass home and make sure you don't choke and die on your own vomit in your sleep. All that preparation and rehearsing wasted (pun intended).
Now imagine all this from the perspective of the soberest person in the room. Bouncers have to deal with us at our absolute worst, so I talked to a few about their most outrageous customers and what it's like to deal with underage kids like me. Here is what they had to say:
VICE: How did you start bouncing?
Luke: I started this job at 17 at this one club but I told the owner I was 19. He paid in cash so he never questioned me. My first shift I ended up being involved in three fist fights. I'm a pretty big guy, I'm 270 pounds and 6'3" so I can definitely fight.
Any outrageous stories?
I have so many stories, I can go on and on, I've been doing this for about seven years. One time my own brother was at the bar and he comes up to me and says there's a guy who won't fuck off. He's screaming at my brother saying he's going to kill him. So I end up having him by the throat and this girl comes over and she throws about eight or nine punches right at my crotch. So I shove the guy, somebody grabs him, and I scoop this girl up into a bear hug and immediately without hesitation she bites into my arm and she wouldn't stop—like a pitbull. I've been bitten many times before—like, I've been bitten on the ass—but I ended up having to go to the hospital to get HIV testing. Luckily I didn't need stitches, but she broke the skin and I was bleeding everywhere. I have a big scar on my arm now.
Did you say you've been bitten on the ass before?
Yes, but it wasn't in a fighting situation. I was sitting on a railing and my ass was hanging over the edge, this big chunk of meat there, and this girl had a crush on me and thought it would be funny to bite me on the ass. That was the most excruciating thing I think I've ever felt. That was about five years ago, but thinking about it now, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up, I think she might have pinched a nerve or something. It hurt like hell.
It hurt more than being bit in the arm? What did you end up doing?
Yep, I leaned back and smacked her in the face pretty hard, it was a reflex. But she laughed, she was crazy.
Another time this girl was sitting at the bar by herself, clearly wasted, and we are all standing there watching her and talking about who's going to be the one to kick her out, and that's me. So as I walk over there she starts to puke into her empty beer glass and she fills it to the brim, just a perfect pour of puke. So I say, "Come on, you don't feel well, I'll help you get a cab to take you home." She starts pushing me and giving me attitude and I get puke on myself. Then she starts lifting her glass to her lips and I'm like, "No you really don't want to drink that," and I try taking the glass from her, but sure enough she takes a big swig of her own puke. She doesn't even realize she was drinking her own vomit. But eventually we got her out of there and into a cab.
You said you guys talk about who's going to be the one to kick someone out. How do you decide who does it?
We always talk about who's going to be the one to kick someone out but it's usually me because I like confrontation, I think it's fun. I treat it like a game more than a job. When I first started bouncing, me and a buddy would race to see who could get to the fights first. Sometimes the fights turn into absolute chaos but in the middle of it we're usually laughing at each other like one time my buddy accidentally kicked me in the face when we were trying to take someone out. I'd say 60 percent of the time [the unruly patrons] give up on the fight, but 40 percent of the time their ego will come into play, so we'll have to choke them out.
Do you always have to choke someone out if they won't stop fighting?
Ya, so we never usually approach someone full tilt—the only reason I punched someone in the face right away is because I knew he was an asshole and there'd be a fight—but I usually always kill people with kindness and sometimes it's to the point where I'm too nice, I'm sounding like a pussy because I'm begging them like, "Please man you don't want to do this, let's just go outside, it'll be embarrassing if you don't." And sometimes people are just being completely unreasonable and they turn quick and tell you they're going to kill you and a fight happens. So you wrap them up from behind, in a choke position and you put a little pressure, then you let go. You try to calm them down but you always let go because you don't want to kill them. But especially now, this could be considered attempted murder, unless you choke them out from under the armpits—you put your arms up through the armpits. We have to be really careful, most times we'll choke them out and we have to let them go unconscious and after that one time they're usually good but some people, when they come back up they'll want to fight again.
Has anyone tried to press charges?
Lots of times. A bar I worked at, it was a Tuesday night, and it wasn't busy at all, there was only about 30 people at the bar. And this one guy pukes all over the place, I saw him in plain sight, and so I go over and tell him that he has to leave. Him and his buddies start arguing with me and they were being totally disrespectful. This bar was open seven days a week so I would get burnt out, so I got the owner. The owner comes over and tries to speak to them, and they were demeaning and rude to the owner but after a 30 minute conversation they decide to finally leave. So as we're walking to the bar, they make a hard right and run back to the bar but they can't hide. Then a fight ensues with the guy that puked and it's like a wrestling match with one of the guys I work with, and he starts to get the up on the guy I work with but I let it go a little bit because I don't like my co-worker. Then I took over and I got the guy outside. There was a video of this that actually helped me when I was in court. So I put him on my hip, like a hip-toss that I've done like a million times, but this time I broke his arm. I heard his arm pop, he hit the pavement and when he sat up his face went white, he was in shock. And I've never broken a guy's arm before so I was in shock too. So I tell his friends to take him to the hospital because his arm is broken, and his friends say, "We're doctors, his arm is not fucking broken." All of these guys are in their last year of med school or just graduated and they say that his arm is dislocated. So they grab his arm and they start ramming it into his socket. But it turned out his humerus, the upper bone in his arm, was broken in three places while these med students, or doctors as they said they were, were trying to ram it into an OK socket. So he had surgery and then I had to go to court. So two years later my lawyer showed the video in court and the case was dismissed. But years later they civilly sued the bar.
Have you ever been asked to kick someone out for no reason?
Ya, absolutely. Well a lot of people think it's for no reason. A handful of times I've gotten, "Oh that guy slept with the owner's girlfriend get him out of here." And I'd always say, "Fuck no." I would never do that but the owners would try to ask me to do that and have their egos come into play. Things wouldn't really be fair, it's not my deal it's theirs so I'd tell them to do it. But sometimes I've refused people because I can tell they're going to be violent because of their demeanor when they come to the door. Like you get a good read off people, like after awhile you just know who's going to be a problem. Another thing is that if people try to build a rapport with you when they come to the door, like they really want to kiss your ass, that guy is always going to start a fight later and then he's going to look to you to go save him.
Do you ever let people into the bar or club if you know their ID is a fake?
Yes, if there's value in it. For some bouncers they'll do it if the girl is hot, but for me that's never made a difference. When I first started working, not once would I do that, I always had integrity. But when I went on to work at the bar where I broke the guy's arm, we definitely did. We'd go home with $700 each a night, we would fill the bar past capacity. There was a side exit door and the main entrance, and we would have people pay $20 or even $50 to go and skip the line on super busy nights. If they were underage and the ID was good, I would take money for it and let them in. But if the ID was bad and they were giving attitude then I wouldn't let them in, but some guys drew the line a lot closer. If a girl winked at them they would just let them in.
Funny story with IDs, one time this girl comes to the door with her ID and I say, "That isn't you." She starts giving me serious attitude and I go, "Sweetheart that's not you, that's my girlfriend, she's at home in my bed right now."
Was it actually your girlfriend?
It actually was. And even after I told the girl that, she's still calling me a fucking idiot and she tries to take it out of my hands and I'm like "No." Apparently my girlfriend gave it to one of her younger friends and then it got passed around.
What do you do with IDs when you take them away?
If a person is underage and they're polite, we usually don't take the ID, but we joke with them and tell them to wait a few years. But legally we can take the IDs, but we can't take health cards I'm pretty sure. We just take IDs to the lost and found in our office. Any bar has a stack of IDs in the office that's like a foot high, every bar has their collection of IDs.
VICE: Any outrageous stories you'd like to share from your time as a bouncer?
I've also done security which is honestly the same thing as bouncing. I've been a bouncer at bars, a doorman at hotels. I was also a bouncer at my own fraternity which was kind of fucked up. It's funny how people are so nice to you when you have alcohol, but as soon as you kick them out when it's 3 AM their compliancy goes completely down the drain.
When I worked at a bar there was a girl who got so drunk to the point where I had to grab her by the shoulders and ask if she was alright as her head is rolling around. She finally realized I was a bouncer and she shoves me pretty hard and so I tell her that she has to leave and so her friends get her outside. Then she has her pants half off and her ass is pressed up against a car and she's peeing on it. I turn away because I don't want to deal with that, but when I turn back around, this chick is fighting off her friends and she takes her pants fully off, her friends back away because no one wants to touch the naked person, then she takes off running down the street with no pants on and her friends start chasing after her.
Has dealing with drunk people on their night out affected how you go out and party?
Oh 100 percent. Seeing the way people act, it's really uninviting for me to go out. I would much rather sit at home, drink a couple beers and watch a movie on my own than go out and get into a fight with some dude because I accidentally stepped on his shoes.
What are some of the excuses people give when they're getting kicked out of the bar or when they can't get in?
There's no shortage of excuses. It's usually, "My friend is in there," "I know so-and-so," and they try to seem like they're some person of authority. I've heard the excuse of someone saying, "I should just be in there." Some people have also called me racist for not letting them in, but I'm black, I wouldn't do that, it doesn't make any sense. This Asian guy once asked if I had something against Asian people. It's very easy for people to see me doing my job as power tripping, they see me as some wannabe cop.
How long have you been a bouncer for?
I've been doing this off and on for about nine years, but mostly as part-time work. I started bouncing when one of my buddies was working at a club in Toronto and they needed another person and I was pretty broke at the time.
Has anything crazy happened?
The whole job in itself is pretty crazy, it's like a game of trying to not get into a fight. There's two types of approaches as bouncers. You either try to talk the person out of it, and that's what I prefer, or you beat them up. There's like two different personalities and for some reason in the bar industry, it's split between people of very high intellect and very low intellect. But it can go either way. There are stupid people who like to talk people out of things and the smart people who like to beat people up and vice versa.
There was this guy who was taking a shit in the garbage can. He was refusing to leave so I start whacking him with the wet end of a mop until I managed to get him outside. The whole thing is just weird, I've been in around 300 to 400 fights. Fighting is just weird, it's not like boxing or wrestling where there is rules. Essentially you are fighting for your life and that is why you have to take it seriously. Even though the person may be fighting you super hard, you have to fight them where you're only trying to subdue them, you don't want to hurt them. For a bouncer I'm on the smaller side, I'm only 185 pounds and 6 feet tall.
Can you explain more of how you deal with people in the club?
For me, getting into physical confrontations is pointless, but for some people they do it as their own version of a sort of therapy. Like I know someone who was trying to kick their cocaine habit and his way of dealing with that was with violence. He'd involve himself in situations where it didn't necessarily need to get that physical. For me I'll go as long as possible before I'll need to touch that person. If you're comfortable with having people scream at you, you can usually just walk them out of the bar. It'll go something like, "Hey man I need to speak to you, let's go outside and talk," and the guy will be like, "What? I can't hear you." Then I say "It's too loud in here let's go talk outside," and once you get them outside you just don't let them back in. And of course that pisses them off but it's a lot easier than trying to drag them out. It's much easier to tell someone that they can't come in rather than having to extract someone who's already in.
It sounds like you have to play a lot of mind games.
It definitely is like a mind game but once you get used to things, it's pretty straight forward. Drunk people are stupid. If you're fine with being called a bunch of names, then you can just wait them out while they're yelling at you and they'll eventually walk away. A lot of times they'll just try to tempt you to get physical with them. They'll say something like, "You're not letting me in because I'm black." They'll try to use different ways to get you angry but you just have to stand there and stay calm. There's no need to engage in a conversation that is going nowhere. You do have to achieve a sort of mental state. As a bouncer you're standing in a room and evaluating if people are having a good time or not with other people's interactions.
Causing large amounts of physical confrontation for the most part is just for shits and giggles, at least in the places I've worked at. Sometimes bouncers go out of their way to grab someone instead of talking it out. I'm not about that style of bouncing, but I do know people who do have that style. Sometimes it's fun for me to watch that because what they'll do to a person is not what I would have done to the person, but it's fucked that I secretly kind of do want that to happen.
Have you let people into the bar even though you knew they were using a fake ID?
To be honest, if it's really busy and they show me an Ontario driver's licence or health card, I'll probably just look at the photo and not the information. If it's not an Ontario ID, then they're not getting in. But I'm not a dickhead who will take the ID, but I have a bunch of friends who will keep the fake ID. Then they'll just laugh at how fake it is and throw it away. If you're going to get a fake ID and go party will all your friends, at least get fakes that say you're all from the same place. I can also tell whether they have their older brother or sister's ID.
Have you ever kicked out someone for no reason?
Absolutely. I've done that but I've also had bosses who have asked me to kick people out for no reason, but I have refused because kicking them out for no reason will be awkward for me. Like sometimes they'll want me to kick out all the guys and leave the girls and I'm like no way is that going to work. But for me I definitely have kicked people out for no reason just because I was in a bad mood or pissed off. But I don't do it all the time. I've maybe done it only about three times in the last nine years, but it has happened.
Do you enjoy being a bouncer?
It's fun. Although I do find that it effects my mindset and I end up taking my work home with me. Not in a PTSD kind of way, but I do find myself acting bossy in certain situations. In my personal life I have a different persona than when I'm working, I'm friendly and laid back. But when I did bounce full time, I'd be with friends and sometimes in a situation or argument I'd catch myself being in work mode.
But people are interesting creatures and when alcohol is involved, drunk people are just entertaining as hell. And they're dumb, but everyone thinks they're super smart when they're wasted.
*All names have been changed.
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