For you social butterflies out there, I’m sure these are words you’re used to hearing at the end of the night when you’ve tied a good one on. For bouncers like me, these words generally mean the end of a 50-60 hour work week.
This “side hustle” of mine has led me to all kinds of places; from hole-in-the-wall corner bars to busy and bustling clubs.
What I’ve witnessed would have most people running for the hills, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed very much over the years.
Here’s a little background: I’m a 28-year-old, single male who stands 6’5″ and comes in at 240-245, depending on whether I had a protein shake or waffles for breakfast. (Yes, that was a shameless plug for a bachelor.) After getting a liberal arts degree, I found myself hungry…not hungry in the sense that I needed to eat, but more in the sense that I wanted better than what I knew growing up.
My parents were (and still are) hard-working, industrious people. They are loving and fantastic providers. However, with not a college degree between them, there’s only so much they could do with two young children. So after interviewing and being hired onto my first “big boy” job, I soon found myself looking for ways to supplement my income and earn some extra jack. A friend took a look at me and said, “How would you like to bounce?”
How to Become a Bouncer
Every bouncing job I’ve ever come into has been through word-of-mouth and relationships. From what I’ve learned, this seems to be the case across the board. “Hey, I have a friend who runs a bar and he needs some security. You look like you can handle it. Whattya’ think?” If you don’t have any contacts starting out, you can usually find jobs by checking out online job boards too like Craigslist, or even just asking around the next time you go clubbing.
(Of course it goes without saying that you gotta have the guns. It also helps if people feel a bit intimidated just by looking at you.)
Some states also require training to obtain gainful employment in the field. Both California and New York require all bouncers to be registered with the state and have taken the proper training courses. I can’t say that I’m entirely informed as to what they entail though, as working in Ohio we just don’t have such a thing. As long as you do not have a criminal past or any felonies, finding a bouncing job isn’t very difficult with the proper connections. Aside from these connections, or simply being flat out asked, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of someone getting a bouncing job through any other avenue.
So, what with crying girls, pumped up dudes and wacky waitresses, the world of bouncing can get pretty hairy. Bottom line, the job of a bouncer is to protect interests of the bar or establishment you work for. It’s a pretty vague job description – and that’s on purpose. Though there’s a list a mile long of unsafe behaviours that happen, what’s “against the rules” is pretty much up to the bouncer.
Successful bouncers are usually “big boys,” though I’ve worked with and seen men (and even a few women) that don’t fit the mould. I’ve seen everything from amateur bodybuilders to a few “fat slobs.” And as you might suspect, steroids are a bouncer’s drug of choice. Generally I’ve noticed that unless you’re a needle-dicked meathead with no self-esteem, steroids add nothing to your abilities in the profession and usually do more harm than good. Roid rage is real. I’ve seen it and it isn’t pretty.
I would strongly recommend that every bouncer have some type of training in hand to hand combat or martial arts. The second week on the job I was involved in trying to break up a fight in the parking lot in which I was punched in the back of the head, tackled to the ground from behind, and as result fell victim to 3 or 4 lovely lads trying to kick my head into the pavement. (Believe it or not, aside from a wicked headache, I didn’t have a scratch on me!) At that point I made the decision to join a local mixed martial arts gym and now have belts in judo, jiu jitsu, muay thai and have boxed with golden gloves and Olympic qualifying level boxers. Needless to say, there have been very few situations since where I have found myself on the short end of the stick. It’s an expense, but a worthwhile one as you can absorb it into your normal budget for health and fitness needs too.
In addition to the physical chops, a firm but friendly, demeanor is best. More often than not, I’ve found that if you can properly remind someone that what they are doing is outside of the acceptable rules and behaviour of the establishment, they are generally pretty responsive and apologetic (and you won’t have a problem with them for the duration of the night).
Come Hell or Hot Chicks
The ability to say no to a pretty face comes in handy when you spot a fake ID and a good looking girl says they would do “anything” to get in the bar. Lesser men would use their power to allow the babe to “do anything” to get into that bar, but I guess mama taught me well. You give an inch – and it’s a slippery slope from there. So, I guess here’s where the ability to not think with your wiener comes in handy: I can’t even count how many times I’ve turned away a hot chick (aka “kryptonite”) who – had I not been working – would have been the first girl I would have hit on myself. It’s a regular occurrence and it happens to me almost every shift!
Bouncing is all about clear boundaries. You gotta’ have a clear code of conduct and stick to it, come hell or hot women. And you need to be a man of action. It’s a yes or a no; maybe doesn’t cut it.
You also have to be a super hero who can see what others cannot. (It helps that they’re all drunk and you are as sober as a priest. Errrr, make that a nun.) The ability to judge and read people is an essential characteristic that every bouncer should have. Personally, this is an ability that I had to learn. The more I worked, the more I’ve learned what to look for in people in regards to body language and disingenuous bull$hit excuses for things.
The Evil-Demon Alcohol
Most people in a bar have had too much to drink. So, how do you identify someone who is over the top and heading for trouble? Your “drunk-o-meter” becomes well -tuned. If someone can’t even stand in a line, or walk/stand up straight (or their head is down and most obviously vomiting), they are probably too drunk to continue safely staying in the establishment, and need to be escorted out. What it boils down to is this: you have to have an uncanny ability to stay observant and sharp. Not only will bouncers need to be able to read people, but they’ll also need to be aware of a myriad of other things, such as noticing people sneaking alcohol in from the outside, or little ladies passing out in a corner.
While I am a firm believer that every person has a right to defend themselves, and those around them, bouncers really do not have any more rights to physically engage with people than others do. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there that instantly envision scenes from Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott beating the $hit out of everyone in their paths, but that’s generally not the way those situations work in real life.
The ability to ignore and brush off insults is another absolute key for the job. I have literally been called ever insulting and degrading name in the book, from f**king f*ck head, to arsehole, to d-bag bouncer, to straight up being told I’m a terrible person. It’s amazing to me how incensed some people become when asked to show an ID to come into a bar that legally requires it. I find it comical that if you throw someone out of a bar for whatever reason, they stand outside the door of the establishment and talk trash to you and try to bait you into something further. The best thing to do once you’ve escorted someone out is to turn around (as long as you’re sure you’re not going to blasted on the back of the head), and go back inside.
In all the times I’ve been around the block, I find that patience pays off most at the end of the night. Whenever I go out, I certainly don’t make it a point to be the last one out the joint. For some reason, a lot of today’s young party goers always seem to want to be the last one to leave, like it’s hip or trendy. People generally get pretty mouthy at this point and when you tell them they need to drink their booze and leave, they tend to react pretty negatively – regardless of how nicely a manner it’s done in. It’s a long and drawn out process to get people out of the joint. Sometimes it ends up with having to literally pull drinks out of people’s hands, and other times everyone walks out shaking your hand, so you never know which way the chips are going to fall.
After midnight is when both your drunk-o-meter, and patience, needs crank up a notch and you need to become a little more tuned in to what’s going on. Most bouncers that have been around for a while know that this is a magical hour. People don’t turn into pumpkins, but instead vomiting and rambunctious jackasses. After midnight I have seen tons of things happen. The very first person I ever threw out of a bar was because I found him urinating in a corner not too far from where I was posted up. In his barley pop induced haze, surprisingly he was extremely calm and understanding as I walked him out of the place with urine dribbled all over the front of his cargo shorts. I’ve also seen domestic abuse, fights between patrons, and most recently have been assaulted by a woman after being an absolute sweetheart to her.
How Much You Can Make Bouncing
As many of you would imagine, a lot of how much you can make as a bouncer depends on the establishment, and the owners of the establishment you work for. Many places you work are most likely going to pay you only in cash. I’ve made anywhere from $7.75 an hour to work at some crazy and dangerous nightclubs, to making a good $90 a night at the current bar I bounce at now – which actually has me on payroll due to insurance reasons. So I get paid $180 every two weeks, and I don’t have to worry about the taxes either since they’re automatically taken out.
Up until September I had an additional job working for another bar too, where they paid me nightly in$50 cash, including tips… not much considering I would drive there after an eight hour work day at my full time job, and then stay until closing time (which was usually about 3am). I’ve since stopped this 2nd bouncing job of mine, and now usually only work on Saturdays and the occasional Thursday or Friday. Based on some rough estimates I’ve done, I’d say I’ve cleared about $6,200 last year.
There are certainly plenty of other ways to increase the amounts you make each night too, but 99% of them are both immoral and highly illegal – so we won’t get into them at all here (And I can honestly say I don’t participate in them anyways, not worth the trouble). I will say though, that at the end of the night there’s generally an opportunity to comb the floor for bills dropped by drunken patrons. I once found a $100 bill which was great since I had been in the midst of an 18 month stretch of unemployment! So if you’re lucky, maybe you can scrounge up some extra cash that way too…
In Closing (Time)
All in all there are both good and bad sides to every bouncing job you’ll come across. How many of you can actually say that you’ve drank on the job or gotten laid as a direct result of being at work? On top of that, there’s a ton of earning potential as there are constant needs to fill shifts and pick up extra work – which also means plenty of late hours, hassle, and personal sacrifice. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to turn down invitations to go out and have fun with friends because I had to go into work last minute. Some nights you’re a rock star, and others you’re the absolute most hated man in the establishment. Either way it goes, you have to be ready, willing and able to embrace it.
For the most part I’d say that my bouncing experience has been a pretty positive one as I’ve never been hospitalized or sued. Some might say I’m lucky, but in my humble opinion, I feel that this is reflection of both my people skills and my abilities as bouncer. I welcome all of you who think you have the stomach, fortitude, and personal motivation to perform this job and give it your best shot!
Guest Post by Ryan – a 28 year old male, living and working both full and part time in the Greater Cleveland area. He has been a bouncer for the past 6 years. The job has seen him through life’s highs and lows, and at one point 3 bouncing jobs were the only thing keeping him afloat. You can check out his weekly encounters at his new blog, Bouncer Manifesto.
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