Thursday, March 09, 2006

My Questions

So you own a bar, and you're looking for bouncers. Maybe you do the old "open call," and you get a bunch of takers. Guy walks in, hands you a resume, says he's a "Federal Agent" -- part of something he calls the "Fugitive Recovery Team" -- and tells you he's yours if you want him. Let's, for argument's sake, pretend I'm the manager conducting the interview:

"So, uh, Jonathan Blaze, is it?"


"Well that's just terrific. Great name, my friend. NEXT!"

However, if we were to move on to another question, it'd read something like this:

"So, uh, Mr. Blaze, it says here you're a Federale."


"Then why in God's name are you looking for a hundred dollar a night bouncing job?"

"Well," he might say, "my wife just had another kid, so I need the extra cash."

"Why didn't you say so? I'm gonna put you right out at the front door, starting tonight! Because, of course, it makes perfect sense to have a federal agent working the front door of a Soho bar!"

"Right on!"

But I'm curious about a few things here:

1. Why didn't this bouncer have a New York State "Security License"?
Yes, I have one, if you're wondering. Was I asked for it when I was hired? No, I was not. I went and filed for mine for "professional" reasons, because you can never really be sure, in this business, when the axe is going to fall. I did this on a "just in case" basis, in the event I needed another job on short notice, but the entire process is purely a charade. I know you need the license to get work with a private firm -- one that supplies bouncers to the industry -- but most bouncers who work for private security companies are clownish hacks who are willing to work for $100 a night, kicking back the extra $50 they should be getting to the agency that got them the gig. In other words, the bottom of the barrel.

The licensing standards for bar and club security can and should be tightened, however, and the Imette St. Guillen tragedy should necessarily force state lawmakers to reexamine the issue. Obviously, Darryl Littlejohn was uniquely unqualified for licensing in damned near anything in New York State, given his criminal record. If he'd been asked to present a license instead of some bullshit resume on the day he was hired, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

2. Why is a bar so hard up for security help that they're accepting resumes?
Call me. I'll fill out your staff for you. I'll find you a dozen guys who can more than adequately fill the position, and I can vouch for each and every one of them. Hell, maybe I'll even take the job on one or two of my nights off. I haven't written about it much on the blog, but I've done a bit of moonlighting over the past two years, working a shift here and there at some smaller places as a favor to a friend. Bouncing -- "good" bouncing, that is -- is a job requiring "connections." If you're soliciting resumes, or hiring guys off the street, you've got problems that hiring a new staff ain't gonna solve.

3. Did anyone actually read this guy's resume?
Federal agents don't become bouncers, do they? I mean, I can't say this with total authority, but I'd wager the practice is frowned upon by the United States government. Someone comes to you looking for work, claiming they're a Fed, and this doesn't set off a few alarms?

4. How can you not know a person is on parole?
Yes, the bar and club business can be somewhat informal, at least in terms of the hiring process, but how can you go about bringing someone onto your staff without even asking for one reference? Do these places have bottomless insurance policies? Do they not have to worry about any sort of liability whatsoever? I'm sure the people who own the club where I work would love to be able to operate with that kind of impunity, but they don't. Why not? Because they've developed the unfortunate habit of actually putting some thought into the way they operate their business. That's why not.

5. Why did they permit this guy to carry a firearm while bouncing?
If you're NYPD, this is acceptable, because it's mandatory. But then again, as a member of the NYPD, you're not permitted to be a bouncer in the first place, so it's a Catch-22. As for a member of any other law enforcement agency, refer to #3 above. You find out a bouncer is carrying a gun while working your door, and you're not going to check and see if he actually is a cop of some kind? I don't know about you, but when I'm around someone carrying a gun, I usually get a little curious about whether he's going to use it on me. Therefore, you check.

6. Where is our common decency?
If I'm a bartender, bouncer, or bar manager, do I send an attractive, obviously inebriated woman out into the streets of Manhattan, alone, at four in the morning? No, I don't. I can't. I'm a bouncer, and a pretty good one. I'm also capable of being a heartless asshole when it comes to my treatment of the customers. But, as has been documented on this blog, there have been two separate occasions where I've paid for cab rides for customers -- out of my own pocket, mind you -- rather than leaving them helpless on the sidewalk.

I don't care how drunk or obnoxious she is. When you throw a pretty young woman out of a bar at closing time, you have to do the right thing. A professional will call her a cab, and then get her in that cab. And please, don't give me some line of bullshit about how "bouncers don't care," and how we're "all assholes." I'm a high profile bouncer, working at a high profile club, and I'm speaking from authority, whether anyone believes me or not, so know this: I've put male customers into cabs because I was concerned about their safety. Grown men. It may not be my legal responsibility, and yes, I'm paid to be an asshole most of the time, but at the end of the night, it's also my responsibility to the human race to not throw a helpless person to the wolves. And that's what you'll find in the streets of Manhattan at four in the morning. Wolves aplenty.

This could easily have been avoided if people simply gave a shit. But, as always, they don't.