Student Guide 1998--bouncing To Bedlam
Nightclub personnel say the best way to prevent trouble is to stop it at the door.
Thursday, August 20, 1998
Once upon a time, bouncers ruled their domain by sheer physical dominance and fear. Didn''t matter whether they were wearing a tuxedo or a sleeveless leather vest, there was a thug lurking within. You know the stereotype: shoulders the size of a small car and a scar running down one side of his face. He had snake eyes and a wolf grin; when--or if--he smiled, you could see yourself reflected in his gold teeth. You f*cked up in his club at your own risk. Things are different today.
Bouncers today are "security personnel," a mixture of doorman, host and legal beagle. They''re taught to recognize authentic identification from around the world and ways to defuse hostile situations. They call the cops before things get out of hand. Knuckle cracking and face busting are pass.
"The first thing I tell our security guys is that the front door is the first line of defense," says Dan Miller, manager of McGarrett''s in downtown Monterey. "If you don''t have that at the front door, you''re going to have problems inside."
According to all the clubs we spoke with, the first thing today''s boun...security personnel...look out for is a customer''s attitude. If it even looks like a person might be trouble, they''re turned away. Doesn''t matter if they''re 16 or 60, any person with a propensity for causing problems is likely to be denied access.
At Bosso''s, the newest hot spot in New Monterey, Tony Annigoni, one of the club''s co-owners, says it''s relatively easy to see trouble coming.
"We have an advantage because we can see people coming down the street," says Annigoni. "You start to read the body language. If they''re jostling or weaving, you don''t let them in."
The front door guys are also taught to recognize people who have previously caused trouble in other clubs. There may be many cities on the Peninsula, but it''s still a small town. If someone causes problems in one place, word is likely to travel, spread by security people who work in more than one club, by club clientele, and by management personnel who have moved from one place to another.
"If there are people who have been chronic behavior problems in other clubs, we just tell them they''re not welcome in our club," says Annigoni, who previously worked with Bluefin Billiards.
Ben Javurek, another Bosso''s co-owner, tells a specific story.
"I had an incident with a guy who hit a woman [in another club where Javurek worked]. I told him he couldn''t come in. He kind of puffs up, and says, ''Why? I''ve never done anything wrong in here.'' And he puffs up real big."
At that point, a crowd was gathering and diplomacy became an important tool.
"So, I said, ''Do you really want to talk about it in front of all these people?''" continues Javurek.
Vince LaRocca, owner of Viva Monterey, stresses that it''s important to defuse the situation by de-personalizing the situation and emphasizing laws and legalities.
"It takes [security] people a little time to learn to stay calm when someone is standing there shouting obscenities in your face," says LaRocca. "But I learned a long time ago that the rules are simple. If what you say and do show no signs of physical aggression to another person, people usually don''t want to hurt someone else. But after they''ve been drinking, people at that point are sometimes trying to provoke you. So, we would never say, ''You''re drunk; get out.'' We say, ''I can''t serve you, it''s the law.''"
Invoking the law equalizes the playing field between customer and club--they''re both being held beneath the thumb of a higher authority. In addition to being a good diplomatic tactic, it''s also the truth. Intoxicated or violent partiers may find themselves faced with heavy fines or time behind bars; club owners who allow problems to develop may be faced with fines and/or penalties that include temporary or permanent revocation of their liquor licenses by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Underage drinkers are one of the problems that have become a increasing concern for the A.B.C., which has resorted to using decoys to check on clubs. Within recent memory, two clubs have been penalized for allowing people under 21 inside their doors, and a third club is awaiting a ruling for a similar transgression.
In Monterey County--with its multiplicity of college campuses (including out-of-state students at CSUMB and out-of-country students at the Monterey Institute of International Studies), the Defense Languages Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School, a steady stream of tourists from around the world, and migrant workers from Mexico--checking ID is something of an art form.
"You see a lot of IDs that have been altered," says McGarrett''s Miller. "It''s the kind of community where you have to be aware of a lot of different kinds of ID. Very often, you''ll see what are purported to be state ID cards, and they''ll flat out not be from that state."
With reference books that show exactly what many official ID cards look like, and common sense (just exactly why are there knife cuts around the ID''s photograph?), some forged cards are easy to identify. Other forgeries are more difficult to discern and prompted club owners to develop various other ways to corroborate the info on the ID.
A common technique cited by the club owners we talked with, is for the front door person to ask the potential customer''s astrological sign. While many people carrying a forged ID take the time to memorize height, weight, and birthdate-type info, they seldom know the correct sign of the zodiac for the fake ID. LaRocca describes other precautions that his door guys are instructed to take.
"[The customer] has to take the ID out of their wallet so we can see it up close," says LaRocca. "We match their height and weight; if you put your hand over the mouth [in the photo], it''s easy to match the relationship between the eyes and the nose. If we have any question, we have a rule that we get a second staff person''s opinion. And then we have them sign their signature. And then, if there''s still any doubt, we''ll refuse."
"If you''re under 40, you better have an ID with you," says Miller. "If someone is using a fake or altered ID, they can face serious consequences. Our rule is to generally confiscate the [altered] ID so they don''t just go down the street.
"That''s how strict we are. And for good reason. It can be your entire business and life''s investment." cw