Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front- back-of-house about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments. This time, we spoke with the first person you're bound to meet at any busy bar or club, before you even reach the bartender: the bouncer.
I became a bouncer by accident.
When I was 18, I used a fake ID to get into a bar in Canada (the legal drinking age is 19). A fight broke out while I was there and I helped the security staff break it up. The head of security at the time came up and said thank you. Then he asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said, "sure." He then asked me how old I was and I said, "18." He looked at me, laughed, and said, "Shit, now I have to fire my door guy."
If you can picture it, I'm 6' 8" and 315 pounds. I was always considered the nice guy out of my friends, and I don't have a threatening or intimidating manner. But I've now been doing security for eight years.
People offer me hundreds of dollars to let them into a club with no ID. I've had people give me fakes that look nothing like them and say, "I lost weight," or "I changed my hair." That doesn't happen. Your bone structure never changes. I've had people try to run past me or sneak through the back door, jump the fence, everything. I've had girls flash me and gay guys flash me.
There have been offers for more than just a quick peek too. I've had people try to touch me. I've been married for two years and have two kids, so I'm not going to do anything. But I know people who do stuff in the clubs, on the spot. It's really a matter of what you want to do with your life.
If someone were to be polite and honest and just say they don't have an ID, if they look of age, I'd probably let them in. But some bouncers turn it into an extra source of income and will bring people to the backdoor guy—usually the low end of the security totem pole—who might charge them 100 bucks to get in.
Though some places have a dress code, most of the places I work do not. It's at the discretion of the owner to tell you who to let in and who to keep out. Personally, I don't care if someone has running shoes on instead of dress shoes. Even when there is a dress code, you don't really have to go all out—don't wear jeans, don't wear a hat, just make yourself look good.
Fights don't happen very often, but I've seen my fair share. Nine times out of ten, I try to talk someone down rather than escalate the situation. But that's not how everyone in my industry feels. One time, I was asking a gentleman to leave after the bar had stopped serving, and another guy just walked right up to him and put him in a headlock. I knocked out one of my bouncers that night because it was uncalled for. The guy was giving me a little bit of grief, but it wasn't necessary and I don't stand for that.
Sometimes people are just looking for trouble. Once, when I was still new to all this, the head doorman was getting into an argument with a guy and the guy asked him to fight. They went around the corner, they were talking, and the second-in-command sucker-punched the customer. That fight was over before it started. If something is going to go down, it's probably behind closed doors where most people won't see. I've seen a guy get thrown down the stairwell because that part of the club wasn't on camera. I don't condone it, but sometimes people need corrective treatment.
Mostly it's just their attitudes—calling somebody out, or being racist. For some reason, most fights between ladies happen in the bathroom. There have been situations with four women rolling around on the bathroom floor. It's not like that floor was a clean place to begin with. Honestly, it was really gross. One had a chick in a headlock, and another was pulling a girl's hair. We pulled them apart and put one pair out the back door and another out of the front door. They ran around the building to continue their fight. The problems that most cause fights between women at our clubs are "This my guy," or "You called me a bitch," or "You spilled my drink." Ninety percent of the time it's because someone spilled another girl's drink.
This is why I prefer to deal with the men. You can solve their problems pretty quickly. The women—especially women who have been drinking—tend to not listen to reason. The men you can usually talk down.
Dealing with drunk people has turned me off from drinking in certain ways. I don't get over-the-top drunk as much as I did when I was younger, but I have a family who relies on me and I like to get up with my kids in the morning. I don't get drunk in the traditional sense anymore, or "obliterated," "turnt," or "hammered," depending on what vernacular you want to use. I have a drink to cap off a day, but most nights I don't have a drink at all.
I never drink any alcohol while on shift, nor have I known anyone who has while on duty. But I have on occasion had a drink or two at the end of the night, and once, I had to call a taxi when Ciroc Peach and Red Berry were released here in Ontario. The product rep bought the security team a bottle of the peach, and we all had "a few drinks" each.
I prefer Scotch over anything—I love to finish off my day with a glass of single malt. In the summer, when we play poker (hold 'em) outside, Scotch and a cigar go hand-in-hand. I also like whiskey mixed with Dr. Pepper, vodka and Red Bull, and the occasional Caesar. Everyone has their preference.
This first appeared on MUNCHIES in May 2015.