Everything bouncers want you to know when you’re in the club
‘We always know when you’re too drunk to come inside’
Bouncers, in more ways than one, have holy powers. Like St Peter, they stand at the Pearly Gates to your night out, and only they can let you and your squad into heaven to pound jägers with the angels. Like Jesus, they preach that only those without sin can throw the first punch. And like God, bouncers can decide that you have sinned against Him by vomiting on His dance floor, and can cast you out of paradise like the snake you are.
One such holy man is Eugene Aiken, a bouncer with seven years’ experience under his belt. He’s worked across New York, staffing the doors on Fridays and Saturdays at the busiest spots in the city. Here’s everything he’s learned in his career as the gatekeeper to your good time – including the revelation that bouncers can always, always see when you try to hide how drunk you are before coming inside.
Being kicked out is not a democratic process
Being rude or yelling to the bartenders or staff will get you kicked out. That and generally being rude or creepy to other patrons. If people come to me and start complaining about you, I’m going to remove the source of the complaint and you’re going to be gone.
People always try to plead their case. But this is not a democratic process. We’re not having a discussion, this isn’t a negotiation. I’m going to tell you what is about about to happen, and then it is going to happen. I am the judge and the jury. What I say goes.
Bouncers are experts in body language
When you’re a bouncer, you get to be an expert in body language. You can judge intoxication levels. The way they approach the door can tell you everything you need to know about someone. If you walk up rowdy and drunk, I’m not going to let you in.
The less I have to do, the better. If I let you in, I might have to start doing things.
No matter what you say, if you’ve been kicked out, you stay out
I’ve heard everything from “I’m going to call the police,” to “My uncle knows the mayor and is going to fire you,” to “I know the owner, I’m going to call them and you’re going to get fired.”
Even if these people have important family connections, they’re not going to come down to handle their little shithead nephews having a drunken time.
I’ve had people cry, girls offer me sexual favors and money. Sometimes they get really upset, for no reason. “I really want to go back inside! My friends are in there!” they say. I say: “No man, tomorrow’s another day. You shouldn’t have caused trouble. You’re an adult and this isn’t a playground.”
Puking will get you kicked out, no question
If you throw up, get out.
Customers are always embarrassed when they’re busted having sex
That’ll get you kicked out. You catch people getting blowjobs in the bathrooms. Most of the time they don’t get angry – you don’t get angry with the bouncer. They recognize a position of authority, like you’ve been caught by a teacher or parent. They’re more embarrassed than anything, and leave.
You’ll see every drug being taken in the bathrooms
I’ve caught people doing all manner of drugs: cocaine is a big thing, I’ve seen people smoking weed and crack in the bathroom. I once caught someone shooting heroin in the bar. People came and said: “There’s a dude passed out in the bathroom.” So I went in and there was a needle sticking out of this guy’s arm. I shook him and he woke up, I told him to get the fuck out. He was able to stand up and walk out.
You don’t want the cops coming, ever
You only want them to come when it’s absolutely necessary. Or else the cops’ll think your bar is a place they need to keep an eye on. So if you’re causing trouble, I’m not likely gonna call the cops and get you arrested. Whatever you do outside of here, I don’t care. You just can’t do it inside the bar.
If you want to fight outside and down the block, go for it. You wanna do drugs? Do as many as you want, just don’t do it inside the bar.
You want to catch fights before they start
I’ve seen everything from two dudes slugging it out, to brawls of 20 or 30 people.
Most of the time, it’s two guys about to go about it. You ideally want to see the fight before it happens, break it up. Get away from each other. If they’re actually fighting, you never want to approach it by yourself. I can take on two dudes – I have before – but it’s not advisable. You want to have a back-up bouncer and grab him and go take care it.
You don’t need help from customers who want to be heroes
All the time, customers want to help me. They say: “Hey bro, anything happens, I’ve got your back.” I’m like: “You don’t work here, you’ve been drinking, you’re not a trained security guard. You’re not an employee of a bar.” People see you and want to talk to you and be your friend and help you out. People just want to be involved. You say thanks but no thanks.
They say: “If you see anything going down man, let me know!”
I say: “No, I will not let you know.”
Fights can take sometimes take an unexpected turn
One time, this dude was being really obnoxious to everyone the whole night. There was a guy there with a girl, and this obnoxious dude slaps the girl’s ass. It turned out they were brother and sister, and the dude says: “What are you going to do about it?” and then he just walks out.
He makes it about a block away, but the brother follows him out of the bar, catches up to him, taps him on the shoulder, and the he hits this dude harder than I’ve ever seen anyone get hit before. It was lightning fast, and so loud I heard it from down the block. The dude was asleep, unconscious before he hit the ground.
The loudest guys always start fights and get their asses kicked
Most guys who run their mouths and start fights get their ass beat. They always go for the biggest guys, way bigger than them, start trouble with them. I don’t get it. They always get their asses kicked. If you see those guys on the door and they have that demeanor, I say: “Have a nice night but take it somewhere else.”
There’s no such thing as a typical night
In New York, bars can stay open till 4am, so my shift normally goes from 9pm till 4am. There’s no typical night. I’ve gone nights where I’ve stood there and checked IDs and never had to do anything. Some nights, I’ve had to stop someone doing stupid shit every five minutes. If you can sense the crowd is chill, you can let your guard down. If they’re riled up, you can sense that and have your guard up.
You’re always polite to celebrities who come in
The only celeb that’s come into a bar I’ve worked was Sway, from Sway in the Morning. He was wearing a hat that covered his dreads, and most people didn’t seem to recognize him. When he came in, I wasn’t gonna say anything. He went and sat in the back with a couple of people. Nobody really bothered him.
There’s always someone – usually a girl – passed out in the bathroom
There was the girl once who passed out in the bathroom, almost naked. We found her – and we couldn’t find her clothes. We had to go downstairs and find a tablecloth. She was just drunk, she hadn’t been attacked. A thing you always have to do at the end of the shift is check the bathrooms for someone who’s passed out. It happens.
Once we locked up but forgot to check, and this guy woke up to an empty club – he freaked out and called the police. So now we always check. For some reason, it happens to girls way more than guys. Girls pass out in the bathroom way more.
Bouncing is supposed to be easy
The thing about being a bouncer is that it’s the easiest job. Nothing bad happens. You don’t have to do anything until you have to do something. If everybody is chill, you just get to stand there, check IDs, watch the crowd. When it starts getting complicated is when people start drinking too much and get rowdy. That’s when it starts to get complicated.
Most people, when they go to work, they don’t have a reasonable expectation to get punched in the face at work. If you’re a bouncer there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll have to get into a physical altercation, depending on the establishment. People ask me: “Do you like to throw people out?” Who likes to do that? Would you want the prospect of fighting all the time? You just want to sit there and hang out.
There’s a real bond between staff
After hours, after the bar closes we sit around and get a couple of drinks. There’s a lot of camaraderie. If shit goes down, they gotta have your back. You build up a lot of trust between each other. If you’re fighting a guy, and another guy comes up behind you, you have to trust the other bouncer to have your back. Most people who work in the bar get pretty tight, because most people who work in bars are extrovert anyway.
It’s great – you get to work where the party is. If there’s a DJ playing good music, you get to work and listen to good music all night. You get to hang out with cool people who you work with. The whole reason people go out is to have a good time. And bouncers are there to make sure people have a fun night.
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