Posted: February 12, 2010 in FRIDAY HAPPY HOUR, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

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.

  1. Jen Forbus says:

    Did you ever really punch someone in the face outside the ring?

    The tie-thing made me chuckle…not really for a good reason, but when I was teaching we wore lanyards to keep our ids on. We weren’t allowed to wear anything that didn’t have a velcro tear-away…for the same reason.

    And I’m suddenly worried about Notre Dame if a graduate believes a bouncer/doorman position is a great career path. 😉

    Have a good weekend, Bruiser!

  2. B. Noonan says:

    Ninety nine percent of bouncers don’t seem to understand #3 and I’ll call it #10b. In 4 years at Plattsburgh (Yes only 4) I saw two people dragged out of a bar and arrested on spot and both were bouncers. One literally picked up a friend of mine and slammed his head on the door frame, which required 14 stitches.

    Not only that but #1 is spot on. If you don’t want the fights, don’t happily offer the ingredients for one. You see we here at the wonderfully classy Orchard Tavern stay away from Jagerbombs and “all you can drink” nights. We are happier than pigs in shit with our cut off t-shirts, NASCAR jackets and customers from “the neighborhood”.

  3. Pasquale Palumbo says:

    As a former doorman myself, I have to agree with you Tom. Your rules are pretty good. While I had to do my share of ejections at the Pub, I was more proud of the times when I cooled the situation down. And yes the public generally doesn’t know how to fight. I’m not trained in any form of combat, but when I was forced to mix it up, I used nothing but straight right hands–they always did the job, and I never got hurt. Can’t say the same for the other guys.
    Being a doorman also has tremendous fringe benefits with the ladies, if you catch my drift.

    • tjs9261 says:

      I actually thought of referencing you in this. I think a college bar is a special subset. One that you handled well.

      You had the whole doorman package: Big, menacing looking, smart, good sense of humor, lack of the need to prove badassdom and, most important, the intellingence to see the best way to approach human nature.

      Your success in leveraging the position in other areas is, of course, legendary.

  4. le0pard13 says:

    Great post, Tom. And, most insightful. Thanks.

  5. Keith Boggs says:

    Tom, I think that you were very well trained. It is really nice to see someone that really understands fighting, and not fighting. Doing martial arts is one thing, understanding it is another. Real life is not a dojo, but the lessons can follow us anywhere.

  6. Just a Girl says:

    From a female perspective…my sis is a cop.

    Often she will watch other cops fighting with a guy. She deploys one of her most effective weapons…and stops it all cold…happened last week…she is working vice car.

    John wont take seat belt off (big BM about 300 lbs)…3 male cops fighting with him…she wants to go home so she sticks head in car, elevates pitch to sound more little girl and less of the german/scott blonde amazon she really is and says – Hey uhhh can you take your seat belt off…guy blinks twice at the good looking blonde and goes….sure…

    then he starts resisting getting out of the car…again she walks up…”uhhhh…can you do me a favor and get out of the car?” – “oh…yeah – no problem” he says…and gets out of car…she smiles sweetly and says thank you…they pat him down and arrest him for outstanding warrents….she calls it blonde kryptonite…and coupled with a sweet smile and an elevated pitch – almost always works.

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