Door staff and bouncers are universally loathed in nightlife. Most people see them as nothing more than an inconvenient roadblock to a good time, not stopping to consider that the purpose of this position is to protect your debauchery. He/she makes sure your favorite spot stays open by verifying age, and if they don't show due diligence, that spot could get shut-down (see Angels & Kings and Le Deux).
The doorguy also stops that homeless person who's asking for your last cigarette from following you inside the bar. And who do you run to when that angry Dodger fan decides you’re the reason they got their asses handed to them by Milwaukee?
In fact, the relationship between all bar staff and clientele is very much like a john and a hooker. Customers work hard all week for bosses who don’t appreciate them, and Friday night they’re gonna take that paycheck to the bar and get loose.
They’ve earned it, damn it.
On the other side of that revelry are busboys that get shouted over as they clean up the wreckage of a good time, bartenders who get hit on or summoned like pets, only to be greeted with blank stares and haggling when it’s time to order, and then there’s the puke. Yes, after your friend throws up her Sugarfish sushi dinner, the half bottle of pregame Fireball, four Adios Motherfuckers and three IPAs bought by some creep who failed to see her “Bride to Be” bachelorette tiara, and after you pour her into an Uber, someone has to clean that up.
This is not a complaint. Working in bars is freedom and a good bar staff is like a band of pirates, societal outliers who have each other’s back. Getting paid in cash doesn’t suck, either.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, door guys…
If you've ever thought, “That door guy's a dick!” or, “That door girl's a bitch,” maybe it's time to think a little more from his/her perspective. For our purposes here, I'm mostly discussing bar scenarios that tend to have males out front, so references below are male, but ladies with clipboards and guest lists suffer through a lot of the same behaviors. Apply an attitude adjustment accordingly as you prepare to head out this coming weekend to blow off steam. Here are a few do's and don'ts that will help improve the situation for everyone involved.
1. Do have your ID ready.
Do not wait until you're face to face with the doorguy and then start digging through your purse or pockets. Your friends are waiting, the people behind you are waiting, the doorguy has all night.
2. Don't make it even more awkward by making dumb comments or cracking lame jokes.
“Oh, you need to see my ID? How flattering.”
It's not a compliment, it's the law.
“I'm probably older than you.”
“Oh, here's my ID but don't let any of these people in…” gesturing to their friends. “They're all underage.”
OK, you heard her, folks, no one's getting in.
The average doorman works three to five nights a week doing the exact same thing, usually at the exact same place. No matter how funny you think you are, he's heard it a thousand times before and a thousand times better.
4. Do know that age is just one of four reasons a doorman asks for your ID. The other three are:
He's initiating a short conversation and eye contact to asses your level of intoxication, if any. Over-serving is a crime.
Attitude check: If you're too much of a dick/bitch to engage in this simple exchange, then you'll probably be a problem inside the bar.
Police, Vice and the ABC send “secret shoppers” to bars all the time to see if they're complying with local laws.
When approaching the entrance to a bar or nightclub:
5. Don't push your already wasted friend to the back of the group in an attempt to smuggle him in. Again, over-serving is a crime in most states and bars take it very seriously.
6. Don't finish a tall can or flask on the sidewalk in full view of the doorguy and get pissed when he doesn’t let you in.
7. Don't try to enter with an outside drink or a cheeseburger that you're still working on (yes, this actually happens all the time).
8. Don't walk in on the phone and act like the doorman is the rude one for interrupting your cocaine purchase.
See also: Facebook and Instagram posting/Bumble and Tinder swiping.
9. Don't walk up to the door already knowing that you didn't bring your ID and launch into a bullshit story about why you don't need to follow rules because you're special and different from everybody else. You're an adult and you left your house to go out drinking without bringing any kind of legal identification. Ignoring the fact that it is technically a crime (in California, at least) to be in public with no ID. What happens if you get into a wreck, pass out sick or get roofied and no one knows who the fuck you are or how to help you?
10. Don't act entitled or say entitled things like:
“I'm a regular.”
If you have to say that, then you clearly are not.
“I'm just meeting some friends.”
Your friends who also had to show their ID.
“I know the owner.”
Well, you must not like them very much if you're willing to put their business in jeopardy.
The absolute best is when someone tries to blow right by, pretending they didn't see the door guy, and then throw a passive-aggressive tantrum when they get stopped, complete with dramatic sighs and eyerolls. This is usually followed by shoving the ID into his hands and then snatching it back like a 3-year-old with a cookie.
At this point the doorman is well within his rights and laws of common sense to turn you around and toss you back onto the sidewalk. You're acting like a spoiled child, so you will be treated as such.
Most door guys I know (present company included) take a bad mention on Yelp or the bar’s social media platform as a badge of honor. It is our experience that the type of person who will resort to this level of petulance often tends to be the type who stiffs when tipping a bartender or complains about cigarettes on a smoking patio.
Again, the doorman is your ally. It's his job to keep your favorite hangout from getting shut down and to keep you safe while you are there. A simple “Hello” and some common sense will go a long way.
Charlie Paulson has worked as a doorman at Wendell, Loaded, Crane’s, BLACK, the Thirsty Crow and Tiny’s (R.I.P.) in Los Angeles.