RICHARDS: Bouncers and their beef

Amy Richards

I’ve never had a good vibe from a bouncer. But then, I have never really reflected on the tough job they are asked to do. They are commissioned to fight illegal activity and protect the workers and owners of the social establishments whose functioning much of the senior class depends on.

Still, I have known bouncers to punch strangers, to take cash in exchange for the illegal admission of minors, to embarrass seniors with threats of expulsion, to flirt with underage girls, or to kick weaker guys, take their money and throw them in an alley. Now, I say not that this is always the case, but here is the truth: I’ve witnessed each of these incidents “go down,” so to speak, in bars on the Main Line. Who sanctions this uncouth activity and who or what stands to benefit other than their egos?

Incidents of shoving and head-bashing have had me wondering if the case of bouncers is not one of preemptive attack on particular bar-goers. Bouncers are always revved up to fight potential opponents who might step onto their bar turf and offend them in any way. Perhaps they are themselves the fight-starters. If this is true, has society instituted the perfect, lawless job for men who are ultrasensitive about their persona but are equipped with the power to push … just grown-up bullies? Perhaps they are bullies who are vested with the power to choose who enters and who is rejected, like the ring leader of an exclusive society.

Since I am not the typical target for bar violence as a female, my beef with bouncers concerns the ease with which they extinguish our excitement about going out. As do many students over the age of 21, I leave for a night on the mainline with a friendly, open-minded attitude. Walking with my fellow students, avoiding petty theft and talking on the way down the mainline gets me excited to enjoy the crowds shoved into tight dingy quarters screaming over music.

But wait, as I approach the bar, I am halted at the front door, stuck standing in the cold with the smokers while some bulky 28-year-old man eyes up my friend in front of me after he demands her license. However disgusting it might feel, we treat him with the utmost respect because we understand this to be a formality before we join in the fun inside. We comply, but the warm and friendly bar experience we had hoped for is tainted by the sour taste left by the scrutinizing bouncer who stands by the door, arms crossed over his chest.

On the other hand, if we cast our frustrations about the bouncer aside, we must recognize the truly difficult job with which he is charged – in keeping the drunk in line. Who could say that violent bar uprisings wouldn’t occur on the Main Line four nights out of the week without bouncers? Maybe these strangers do care for our safety.

In an often overlooked way, we share an intimate relationship with bouncers. They learn our birthday upon our first meeting them, and then we reveal to them our actual height. They get to poke fun at us for how fake our home state made a driver’s license look. But most of all, bouncers ask us the color of our eyes and then look straight into them, while they proceed to examine the details of our face and hair. Without any coaxing or playfulness at all, they have us smiling for them on the spot. I know handsome boyfriends who couldn’t do that.

Finally, every Thursday I look into the eye of the bouncer who told me a year ago that I wasn’t that girl on the license I had offered. As much as I can dislike him for it, well, he was right. It wasn’t me. I guess he was just doing his job.


Amy Richards is a senior honors, Spanish and global interdisciplinary studies major from Kings Park, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected].