No backpacks in the bar, sir.
No backpacks in the bar, sir.

Why Your Bouncer Hates You

Our brethren and sistren at Phoenix New Times have done some awesome writing about why your cocktail waitress hates you and why your pizza delivery guy hates you. I've never been a cocktail waitress (you may now all breathe a collective sigh of relief) or a pizza delivery guy, but I have been a bouncer, so now let's all learn why your bouncer hates you.

First, let's get it straight. Bouncers, who are also known as doormen (and doorwomen, scarce in the industry though they be) are, at least in California and New York, trained security guards who are licensed by the state. Other states, including the one I worked in, delegate the training to the local authorities. We're not just hired thugs.

Our primary responsibility is to make sure you have a good time while staying safe. Secondary to that are enforcement of the law (no underage drinking, no drugs, no sex in the bathrooms, no prostitution, no spiking drinks that have been set down) and enforcement of the bar rules (dress and behavior codes, etc.).

I'm not a doorman anymore, but here are some of the most common complaints. Current and former bouncers, let's hear from you in the comments section.

1. We Don't Care About Your Personal Problems

If you're being turned away due to capacity, to potential trouble brewing in the bar (you do know those earpieces we wear actually work, right?), or simply due to the fact that we don't think you're going to enhance the atmosphere in the bar, pouring out your litany of woe into our ears isn't going to change our mind. Even in tiny, rural towns there are multiple bars; if you're truly so desperate, lower your standards a bit and go find another bar to hang out in.

Also, once you're in the bar, go have a good time. Make some new friends if you came alone. We like social interaction, but politeness seems to demand that we look at the people talking to us, which means we're not looking at the room and heading off conflicts before they become big problems.

2. Your Shitty Fake ID Isn't Fooling Anyone.

How do you spell "Delaware", genius?
How do you spell "Delaware", genius?

Seriously, exactly how stupid do you think we are? There are books out there with the ID for each state, the current model and one or two models back. Every doorman knows if under-21 licenses are portrait orientation or landscape orientation, we know that all IDs have fronts and backs that match, we know where the holograms are and what they look like, and we have all sorts of fun cognitive tricks we use to find out if you match the information on your ID. ("When's your birthday?" usually results in a correct answer, but "How old are you going to be on your next birthday?" or "What's your ZIP code?" trip people up.)

Also, big tips here: spelling counts (there are two Ns in Minneapolis and a space in New Orleans, for example), and when you're pasting a picture onto your friend's ID, please for the love of God try to remember that the DMV only allows one person in the photo at a time.

3. We Don't Really Care How Much You Spent

We're security guards. We are not bar owners. When you get tossed for throwing your drink in some other girl's face, for smashing a bottle on the bar and brandishing it, for bawling out the bartender or barback, you could have spent $2 or $2000; we don't give a damn. Yelling at us about how much our doing our job is going to cost the bar just makes us shake our head and toss you a little further to protect our aching ears.

"I'm never coming back here again!"

That's right, you're not. Glad to see you're not THAT drunk.

4. We're Not The Fashion Police

At least half the time you get turned away for being dressed inappropriately, it's because we saw your antics back in the line and we think you're going to be a security problem once you get inside. The rest of the time, we are either enforcing the bar owner's policy, for better or worse.

So let's get it straight: you need to wear clothes, and you need to wear that clothes that fit you appropriately. Too baggy, and we wonder what you're hiding in there. Too tight and you could be a danger to yourself. The bar is full of drunk idiots, remember. Most of us don't care if you match, if you wear True Religion jeans or Wrangler, or what you accessorize with.

Give us a break, though. Every doorman in a city knows what the local gang attire is. It could be oversized white T-shirts, red bandannas, excess length in the pants legs "ponytailed" with a hair tie, it doesn't matter; wear it and you aren't getting in. Nobody wants the gang fight on his or her shift.

5. We Don't Want To Beat You Up

The best nights are the ones where problems are resolved by talking. People seem to think that as soon as they see security coming, someone's getting a beatdown, when in fact most resolutions, and even most ejections, go peacefully. You don't notice when that happens, which is exactly how we like it. We want you to concentrate on having a good time, not on the black-clad security guards.

That's not to say we won't get physical, particularly if you start it. A good bouncer's goal when using force is to stop the fighting back. We don't get our rocks off beating the crap out of people, and it causes a bunch of tedious paperwork. We'd rather get you under control and let the cops deal with you.

6. Lights On Means Go Home

Lights are on, buddy. Either close the deal or go home alone.
Lights are on, buddy. Either close the deal or go home alone.

The single biggest complaint I heard was that there wasn't enough time between last call and lights on. It was half an hour. If you can't drink a 12 oz. bottle of beer in that time, then don't order one at last call. Unless you live in Louisiana, Nevada, Miami or Atlantic City, your state or local government has strict rules about the alcohol cutoff time and narcs who go around enforcing it. Also, closing time is set by the bar's clock, not yours. Them's the breaks.

Once those lights go on, you have to leave. In the immortal words of the Oakridge Boys, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. Here's a free tip: if you can't see the clock, look at the bartender. Normally the bartender mixes drinks and the barback runs errands: clean glasses, fresh towels, new bottles, fresh ice. When you see the bartender in a busy bar helping the barback, it is damn near closing time. Get the hell out. Come back tomorrow night.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >