Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A living

A punter came up to me one night while I was watching a rather empty dancefloor in a yet to be busy club.

I knew this punter as the previous week he'd had one too many and I had to ask him to leave. That night he'd not gone quietly, though he did walk, he just wasn't happy about it and told everyone who would pay him the time of day.

This night as he walks up to me I'm thinking to myself, he's relatively sober and with his girlfriend tonight. He either wants to lay me out for screwing up his night last week or he's come to apologise. Turns out the latter was the case. He shook my hand and said he was sorry for being a nob the other night. He didn't think he was that drunk but it caught up with him in the morning and he really must've been. I told him not to worry and to have a good night of it tonight. After a natter he seem mightily impressed I'd been able to spot his drunkeness when even he was unaware.

To this I could only reply, "I do this for a living."
I'm sober, alert and generally fairly well rested. I've been doing it alot and know what to do and when. Unlike your average drunken punter I'm fully aware of my surroundings and can percieve the tell-tale signs of a drink addled person from quite a distance.

It's sad to think that one of the skills I've proven myself remarkably useful at over the years and have now honed to a fine art is assessing whether some-one's had a sherry or two too many from just watching them, from a distance, walk five steps. I can see it in their shoulders and the way they carry their arms. I can spot it in their facial expressions and the look in their eyes. I can also tell the subtleties of who's most likely to get aggressive, who'll see sense and walk off and who'll just get it wrong and need more than a little help to get out of the building.

All of these things I've picked up over the years and now I'm beginning to get similar appreciation of the illegal drugs that one occasionally sees. Who's up on charlie or speed, who's taken special K and will be needing some serious talking down later in the morning. All of these I see less than the drug of national habit, alchohol, and each can cause a range of behaviours with some very mixed signals.

As I say it's what I do for a living, glamourous it is not but it is a living. And importantly it doesn't involve sitting in an office at 9.am every morning waiting to shuffle paper from one box to another and read 200 emails that a sane man would just file and forget.

Seen in that light, it's more than living but it's sure as hell not a way of life.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My eyes (pt I)

There are things you should never have to witness.
This is part one of an occasional series where horrors from my line of work come back to haunt me and by means of spreading the love to you through this blog I take a little therapy.

Today's image scorched onto my retinas is almost literally so. In a dark club, you see a punter, fairly average size and drunkeness, finish his pint in a bit of a hurry to get himself onto the dancefloor for some banging tune.
You keep watching and as the song ramps up, the lights dim and the strobe lighting comes on. The pale white frames of stop motion show the instant when the punter stops his dancing amid the sea of writhing people and projectile vomits. I see the solid shaft of beer, bile and chunks of stomach lining fly straight above the heads of the crowd frame by frame. It freezes mid air in the repeated jerking frames of the strobe then falls onto the dancing crowd to cause untold woe.

The image of this frame by frame nightmare is very haunting. The incidident wouldn't have been note-worthy were it not for the stobe, 3kW of violent bright strobe lighting, burning it into my mind.

Excuses excuses

Some folk will try any line to get past you on the door.
"But my cousin/brother/best-friend/girlfriend/etc is in there"
"I know X and Y"
"I come in here all the time..."
"You're doing this because I'm Z"
"You know this is bullshit, you're just doing this to piss me off"
None of these will ever work. This kind of useless pleading is just not entertaining, it won't work, it won't win you friends it'll just leave you outside and provide some spectacle for those currently outside with you.
It's that simple.

Now give me story I believe and that prompts a little sympathy, humor or even pity and without begging or even directly asking for it and the door may open for you. Not a guarantee but a lot of the rules we operate have some leniency which can be dusted off and sprinkled sparingly on individuals from time to time. If you can spark a rapport with a doorman, this rarely seen commodity can be yours, just don't be a dick when you get in there as that will really piss us off.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I. f**king D.

Why in the name of all things scabbed and ulcerous do young punters think I'm stupid.
I've been doing this job for a few years and statistics suggest I've probably let a few under-age folks in over that time. Not many mind you and never knowingly.

If you look like you could be under-age I will ask for I.D.
Now thats a much different thing from thinking that you are under-age. Don't get offended and think I'm on a power trip, I'm just doing what the law suggests I do to ensure I'm not involved in the supply of alchohol to minors.

If you look young and are over-age you'll fall into one of two camps. You'll either be a nice punter and understand the need for licensed premises to check these things and bring ID with you. A nice passport or a photo-driving licence. The photo will look at a first approximation like you, allowing for age of the photo and hair, diet, glasses to change.
Or you'll be saying to me that you never need ID and I must be daft to ask. Not normally that polite but it's nice to hope. Here I look at your friends. If they all look over 25 and you look like you fit in I may be generous. If they've just shown me their ID and they're 18 by two months, you can wander off into the night.

I've seen beautifully crafted fake ID over the years and many more recently with the arrival of many sites upon the web offering these "joke" services. I'm still suprised by the look on their face when I tell them that the ID isn't up to par. They usually combine the drinkers anger at not being let in with the whimpering look of a dog that's just been caught with it's head in the roast.

The use of out of date passports is really starting to bug me. We don't accept retired passports. The photos are far too old and if you've got older siblings or relatives with even a passing resemblance it can be too hard to tell.
If you're trying to slip one past me it's not gonna happen past me. But then I'm old bored and cynical, I've not been ID'd for over a decade and you'd be suprised that I still carry my driving licence all the time.
Ironically, I was a right teenage under-age drinker. I kinda slowed down when it became legal, had girls to worry about then. Still worrying about them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Drunk

What do you do when you're at work, it's quiet, it's going smoothly and all of a sudden your boss turns up absolutley off their box?

Not the door company boss, that'd be scary, as that amount of horse growth hormone mixed with alcohol would send anyone loopy. No, the licensee.

The person who we doorstaff theoretically work for. The person judged by the relevant authorities to be a fit and proper person to retail intoxitating liquors to the public. They turn up b*ll*xed and don't just sit there merrily sipping their large white wine. They wander round abusing customers, making them leave their drinks and leaving them threatening to report the licensee to the brewery. They shout at barstaff, in full view and hearing of all the punters on the premises, reducing them to tears and seeing them walk out. Swearing and being ballistically offensive.

What you do is find the bar manager, cowering out of the firing line for equal fear of either losing the job they and their kid need or losing the plot and smacking the boss into the middel of the street. You explain that we can either escort the licensee off the premises and get a shed load of grief from them as we've just forced them out of their own home. Or we just quietly stop letting anyone in and stop serving those within. Once the last punters leave, whilst the boss is still mid swearing rant, we shut the doors, escort the tills to the safe, collect the obvious glasses and leave them on the bar. Escort the remaining barstaff off the premises and lock the drunken fool in there.

That meant an early end of the night, but we and the staff just bundled across the road and amid the touting for job vacancies had a cool calm beer and a rather nervous laugh. I know that most of the group will never work with that licensee again. It's hard to run a pub with no staff.

Not a fun night's work. But a good solution I think. Hopefully in the painfully sober light of day the realisation of their f*ck up will leave them rather sorrowful and hopefully thinking of a new career, where they can't walk in pickled and shoot themselves in the foot with quite such aplomb.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Back up

The most effective means of getting my back up is to provide me with no back-up.
when I'm on the door of a bar with one other doorstaff, I expect them to back me up and for me to back them up. I may disagree with what they've just done but aslong as they're not breaking the law there's very little chance I'll do anything at all to undermine them. With the exception of winding other staff up I think that's farily universal in the trade.

I've only worked with one doorman who thought it pertinent to disagree with me infront of a rejected punter, most happily disagree out of punter's earshot and this is expected/necessary/productive. I don't work with him anymore.

To work well in this job you need authority, not just from size and meaness but from your manner and your decisiveness. To have the chap dressed as you are, standing doing the same job you are, undermining that authority is one of the fastest ways to land yourself in sh*t. That gets my back up.

When we ask for barstaff to call police or ambulance, we expect them to do it as a first priority. If it's a soda water and lime I'm after then fair enough, take your time but, when it's mine or anybodies arse on the line, back me up. Almost all of the bar and management staff I've ever worked with have been good this way. It may be to do with my manner or it may have something to do with only asking those who'll get it done to do it.

When the call goes out for a blue light noisy vehicle of some form or other we really do like them to arrive as fast as is sensible. The whole reason we've called them suggests there's somthing they need to be doing. We'll not call an ambulance for a healthy punter, but we do like them to ba able to walk out under their own steam with at least enough consciousness to make it to the kebab van. The ambulance service has always been very good at getting to the right place at the right time and asking the right questions quickly. We may not have all of the answers but it's nice to know they're on the ball.

So enough of praising the drunk kidnappers, time to whine about the cops/pigs/rozzers/scum/filth. I know they work in a world of boxes to be ticked and forms to be filled but some nights you get the feeling they'd rather be keeping themselves nice and warm in their van rather than stopping a minor disorder from sending some-one into hospital. The calls go out from us and we know they hear us, but if it's not a tasty job I think we get passed to the unit who are off to the nearby town with excess overnighters and won't be back 'til shift end.
Not all in all the best response to a situation which'll leave either doorstaff or punters asking for alot of NHS money to put right something we could all have done without.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Blue light taxis

Now it's not often we have to deal with the boys in blue, though they do like to drive past and keep an eye on us.

Most commonly they'll just wave as they drive by and they can see we're working and we can see they're driving around seeing we're working.

Every now and again they actually walk past and say hello or stop and get a tea/coffee and a natter. They do this I'm sure to tick a box somewhere saying they've spent time working in partnership with licensed premises staff to promote a safer city. From the sounds of it there are always boxes to be ticked.

Sometimes we have them come around and check we've all got our silly blue badges somewhere about our person. We show them, they write down the numbers and then promtly ignore the whole transaction other than to tick another box somewhere to say they've verified the integrity of the licensed doorstaff scheme.

Every now and then they'll ask if we've seen someone, there are only a few folks who they'd think we'd have recognised though it's odds on we haven't on any particular night.

Evreynow and then they'll pop in and have a gander for someone, seldom find them in the premises but it does work to scare our customers honest every now and then and it keeps a pair of bobbies out of the rain for 10 minutes as they stop for the inevitable tea/coffee.

Then we come to the times when we call them.

This is not a very often occurrence though when on the doors of the bigger clubs it's often more as a heads up to CCTV or patrols about the folk we've rejected. They usually ignore it though there are times when it's best to let them know the folk they've been asking after all night have just left our doors heading onward into the cold dark night.

Everynow and then the doorstaff would rather the police ejected someone. This is rare where I work though if you think it'd be more trouble and cost to scrap a large group out into the street its amazing how one or two brightly jacketed high viz police officers can be very persuasive.

The other time this happens is if the person by entering a licensed premises has already broken the law due to court order or bail conditions. Then rather than just hoicking them out onto the street we'll let the police know to be waiting with the back doors of the van open.

Sometimes when folk get rejected or ejected they just don't go away. These times we just send for the boys in blue to send them on their way homeward. If they keep being royal pains in the arse even when the van turns up they'll be getting B & B for the night.

Everynow and then we'll pull someone in for a random search and they'll agree, somehow forgetting the quantity of drugs they have poorly concealed about their person. They could just head to the door and we've no power to stop them but they agree to be searched and then we find all manner of illegal goodies on them. We then ask them to stay put and generally they do. If they want to leg it we persuade them it's best not to as the police are one their way and we're fairly sure they would far rather not have to run after them. It usually works and the police either say hello to an old friend when they come in or just book it and sling em in the back.

If large scale public disorder is likely to erupt on a front door we often find ourselves shoulder to shoulder with the high viz plods and thankfully we don't have to use HO approved restraint techniques. It's more fun doing it our way but they do get to play with extendable batons and handcuffs.

I think in our city we get on well, with the changes in the industry over the last 5-10 years, I think both us and them see the others as partial allies in the grand scheme of keeping punters safe doing what they want to be doing and keeping the rotten apples out of the pie.

Every now and then they just don't turn up which properly gets on our tits.
More on this when I've cooled off enough not to give a ten page rant.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Ways to...

get rejected at the front door

1. Be drunk. I know the need to get a few jars down your neck and get the social juices flowing before you attempt an approach towards a good-looking lady. I also know it's illegal to serve anyone who is drunk. Merry I can live with, drunk I can't. Be it slurring, staggering, swaying or just that relaxed facial expression that says one too many, I'll be more than happy to send you away to enjoy your night elsewhere. It may seem daft that we turn away potentially our highest consuming customers doing this but we'd rather see them go from merry to drunk inside, it's more profitable and less messy.

2. Be inappropriately dressed. Now I'm not a fan of scruffy people. Men, have a shave, not every day but at least some time in the last 2 weeks. Ladies, do something with your hair, even if it's just brush it or put it up. you can dress as you like as long as you meet he ever varying and always open to interpretation dress code. Not looking like you've crawled out of a dark hole backwards is always a good start. I don't have a sense of fashion, only of taste, that means that whatever the label is on your clothing, the bigger it is the less I'll like you.

3. Be undressed. Less of a problem than (2.) but don't leave shirts unbuttoned or off and I don't want to see your pants escpecially when you've got a belt on you chavvy morons. Ladies, unless it's very exceptional bra's are not for public display, nor are nipples or the top of your pubes. Don't take offence when I reject you for this, I just think that if I were a punter I'd rather not be seeing these things when I'm inside enjoying myself.

4. Be loud. Having a laugh, telling a joke, winding a mate up. All good uses of the time spent not drinking whilst queuing. Loud shouts, loud singing or other abrupt loud noises will only increase my unease and will leave you with more than a queues worth of time without drink.

5. Poor queuing. The person standing infront of you will likely be trying to do the same as you and get into the premises. Sometimes this is not the case though it's always best to ask them. Don't think you can just cut in ahead of other more patient punters. If we notice, and we generally do, we'll happily remove you to attempt another manners lesson from the back of the queue. If you actually think it's worth requeuing than go ahead, it's likely we've just done it to wind you up but you may get lucky. If not you've only wasted your time not mine.

6. Be part of a large group. Now for mixed groups this is often less of a problem but for single sex groups, out on the town for some spurious celebration reason or another, some fool in your group will likely have fallen foul of 1-5 above and nothing you can do or say will entice me to change my mind. Best bet is to leave them with money for a taxi and kebab and wish them well for their head in the morning.

7. Be barred. Now some folk don't seem to get the hint that when we say they're barred from the premises, they are barred from the premises. We only have a few clubs in this town so maybe that's the reasoning but whatever the motivation, we don't want you in. You may get past the front pair and even pay to get in at the front desk but someone working will know you and you will be abruptly back on the street. If you are barred, turn up sober and ask politley why and for how long. Don't argue, just accept it and take your custom elsewhere in the mean time. Argue and we'll just keep upping the length of your exclusion 'til zimmer-frames and more than a few changes in ownership will be facing us all.

8. Be distressed. Now I know when folk go out drinking thay can get emotional and can get upset by the smallest things. Sometimes bad news reaches you or it's as you relax that something finally hits home. I understand this, I'm not going to let your sad sobbing self into the club to drown your sorrows. It's just not good for the place to have you drinking here when you're in such a state the other customers will notice.

9. Have a history. If I've had to kick you out before, I'll possibly remember this and possibly why. If you were too drunk or you'd fallen asleep, if you look like you're half-way there again I'd likely not let you in. If you were violent or threatening previosly, I'd try and assess what mood and company you were in. If I had any doubt you'd be trouble, I'd save myself the bother of having to let you in. Unless of course, I was bored and fancied having something to do. In which case I'd be more than happy to let you in and have myself a whale of a time kicking you out again.

10. Arrogance. I get paid to work here and do a rather unpleasant job at rather unpleasant hours. This is not a good reason to think I'm stupid, idle or only recieving the minumum wage. Be polite to me when I greet you and I'll like you a whole lot more than when you respond to my greeting with the kind of stare that kept the british empire only ever one good rebellion away from a kicking. If you think I'm scum, why, oh why, would it bother you so much that I decide not to admit you. It may seem like I'm doing it for kicks and it's partly true but rude and ungrateful people cause friction within the club both with punters and staff. If I can reduce their number inside by one I'm a happy lad.

11. Misc. There's a world full of things you can do to annoy me enough not to let you in, however a good manner and some sobriety can overcome most of these obstacles. The best thing to bring with you to a club is a good attitude,

oh and of course your ID.