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Bouncers: heroes or hindrances?


We’re all used to taking on the queues on a night out in Exeter, but what about the staff who control them? Elise Metcalf examines the role of the bouncers in our pubs and clubs, and decides whether they really are a force for good. 

They stand in an array of drunken splendour. Students zigzag towards the doors laughing and intoxicated. As they crowd at the door, they rifle through purses and pockets to find their ID in anticipation of a night of dancing and amusement. Then comes the moment that we all too often face as students. The bouncer, sporting a black leather jacket and perpetual frown, crosses his arms and utters the words “Nope, you’re not coming in.”

How many times have we all not made it up these stairs?  Image: @TimepieceExeter on Twitter
How many times have we all not made it up these stairs?
Image: @TimepieceExeter on Twitter

Fair enough. If the student is on the floor, practically passed out and heavily intoxicated, it seems reasonable- responsible even- that they should not be allowed to enter an area where there are numerous alcoholic beverages and crowds. However, are there instances where bouncers abuse their power? All too often it seems that a student is turned away with no justifiable explanation.

Bouncers are legally allowed to ask someone to leave and refuse entry if the person is “too intoxicated, fails to comply with establishment policies, or engages in aggressive behaviour.” Their allowances are therefore considerably broad and there is little leeway in an argument. A bouncer’s word is final; whether or not their decision is justified.

I am not calling for justice of those who are drunk and incapable, but more for those who are stone cold sober and ruthlessly misunderstood. Standing next to someone who is drunk can be enough for you to be associated with him or her and share their fate. The worse thing is that if you argue back and try to reason, shouting over the crowd of vicious students battering their way through the queue, you are labelled an ‘aggressive drunk’. This normally concludes with being firmly dragged from the line and sent on your way.

Bouncers, whether or not they realise, have the power to make or ruin your night. I have come across many rude, obnoxious and uncooperative bouncers in my time at university. Power-tripping bouncers seem all too common. We’ve all experienced it: calmly trying to explain why your perfectly sober friend who got caught in a line stampede is not the perpetrator, whilst facing a smirking bouncer who is clearly not prepared to listen. The little authority they have goes to their head and they abuse the power of being able to kick people out of clubs or bar entry in order to gain a sense of importance and worth. It’s frustrating.

However, there are also bouncers who are the polar opposite. They chat and joke as you line up, and humour you as you try to string together a sentence of drunken chatter. They patiently wait as you rummage through your bag trying to find your ID, and smile politely when you drunkenly decide to torture them with your life story. However irritating we find obnoxious bouncers, it must be nothing compared to some of the student yattering that they have to put up with.

We must also not forget a bouncer’s fundamental role. They are there to provide security and they enhance the safety of everyone in and around their venue. Bouncers monitor people by checking their ID, deal with people acting aggressively, and prevent damage and destruction. I have frequently seen bouncers break up aggressive fights or escort troublemakers from the premises. They provide a sense of protection and their job is one that is undeniably significant.

I have therefore concluded that bouncers cannot be generalised. Yes, some are rude and abuse their power. It’s aggravating and we, as students, are poorly equipped to respond to this wrongdoing. We are powerless and our drunken antics and reputation fail to make us the stronger side in an argument. In some instances, you probably are too intoxicated and screaming at the bouncer isn’t going to make him think otherwise. If you’re not drunk and there really is no reason for the bouncer acting as they are, then simply rise above it. If you are thrown out of a club, go to another one.

Bouncers, despite their flaws, ultimately look out for the well-being of students and heighten security. We moan about them but would miss them if they were gone.

Elise Metcalf

If you’ve had any experiences with nightclub bouncers- good or bad- why not join the discussion and share in the comments section below? 

Editor’s note- Further to Elise’s argument, I would just to share a personal experience in which nightclub bouncers really came into their own. In November I fell down the stairs in Arena and broke my ankle- yes, I was a bit drunk, but sadly not drunk enough for it not to be agonisingly painful. I couldn’t walk, stand up, or really move, and the Arena bouncers were nothing short of heroes: after an unknown girl (to whom I am eternally grateful) asked if I was OK, to which I responded with a gasped ‘Noooooo’, went and fetched a bouncer, two of them acted as my crutches to get me to the foyer. They sat me down, called me an ambulance, looked after me- and kept me entertained- while we waited for the paramedics, and, importantly, at no point blamed my tipsy state for what had happened, believing me when I said that it could easily have happened sober. Upon my long-awaited return to Arena this term, not only did the bouncers instantly recognise me and ask how I was, but they even let me use the disabled loo downstairs for a few weeks until I felt brave enough to take on those stairs again. Having used to work on the bar in Mosaic myself, I know how hard it is trying to do a job in that kind of environment, and I have to say that in my case, the Arena bouncers couldn’t have been better. It’s their job to keep everyone safe at all costs, and to mop up the mess when that goes wrong, and I will never forget, or stop being grateful for, what they did for me. -Fran Lowe, Online Features Editor. 

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