How to Treat Bouncers, According to Bouncers
"It should go without saying, but don’t be racist."
Photo by Fredrick Kippe / Alamy Stock Photo
This article originally appeared on VICE France
If you want to get into a club, you need to get past its gatekeeper. As a rule – and as part of their job description – bouncers aren't the easiest to please. No matter how hard you stare at the flyer hanging behind him to prove you're not too drunk to focus, however long your friends argue on your behalf, if the bouncer says no, it's likely you need to find somewhere else to go.
I spoke to three Parisian nightclub bouncers to get some tips on how you can improve your chances of getting in – Élisa, from the open-air spot Wanderlust; Dido, from Latin-American themed bar La Mano; and Bak, from Le Baron and the Cannes Film Festival, who all explained why insults, bribery and flat-out racism are unlikely to get you closer to the dance floor.
Most people are quite friendly in their day-to-day lives, Élisa says, but after a couple of whiskey and cokes they can turn into nasty, haughty monsters. "So it's a good start to not arrive completely pissed, and try to be polite," she tells me.
At Wanderlust, Élisa claims that the younger the clubber, the ruder they are. "There's really no reason for me to accept an 18-year-old who just told me to go fuck myself because I asked to see their ID, and they’re now too drunk to remember where they put it."
For Dido, the worst people are those who think they can skip the queue just because they claim to know the brother-in-law of the DJ's neighbour's former classmate. "And I definitely take people's attitude into account before I would think of dishing out any special favours," he says. "A basic, polite 'hello' always goes a long way."
Don't Be Racist
"Once, a middle-aged woman in a fur coat came by in a Rolls-Royce, driven by a chauffeur," Bak tells me. "After pulling up, she walked straight up to me and said, 'I have just come from the George V hotel, where I live in a suite.' When I carefully explained that I couldn't care less who she was or where she was sleeping, she replied, 'I can’t believe I’m being refused entry by a negro – this really must be the 21st century.' It should go without saying, but don’t be racist – you won’t be allowed in."
Don't Try Bribing Your Way in
According to Élisa, stuffing a crumpled £20 note in a bouncer's pocket probably won't get you very far, because it's likely the bouncer makes more money and has more self-respect than you do – too much to be bribed, anyway. "I also get offered loads of gifts, like perfume and clothes," Dido adds. "But getting in doesn’t work that way. Ninety-nine percent of clubbers are drunk and/or high, so I know there's nothing sincere about it."
Unless you’re very well connected, there’s no foolproof technique for being allowed into a club. "The boss' friends can sort of do whatever they want, but that's it," Dido explains. "Generally, though, I’m careful about who I turn away and the way I do it, so it's nice when people understand and accept it with a smile."
At Wanderlust, most guests aren't as inclined to take no for an answer. "People can get really violent," Élisa tells me. "They think to themselves, 'Who’s this bitch ruining my evening?' and then get really angry. I don’t know why, but women seem to get the most annoyed at being turned away by another woman. It's almost as if I've betrayed them in some way, and they very quickly lose their temper. I fully understand that we have the power to ruin a person's night, but insulting me isn’t going to make me any nicer to you."
Appreciate That Being a Bouncer Is a Profession
Being a bouncer is an actual job, with specific restrictions, targets and non-negotiable orders from bosses. Appreciating that they're not just there to make your night miserable will help you on your way to treating them with a bit more understanding. "Us bouncers see ourselves as artists, trying every night to paint the most beautiful picture by bringing together the right mix of people and energies," Bak says.
So, to secure a place on that canvas, it's best to not be haughty, angry or racist.