Thursday, February 15, 2007

Trickle-down bouncernomics

I’ve started a fiscal crackdown, and I’m cracking down hard. I’m cracking down for all I’m worth, and then some, on every Carmine, Vinnie and Anthony coming up the sidewalk. I’m doing this because my “door rent” has been raised, and I need to pass the additional expense down the line to someone other than me.

What happened was this: the head bouncer (JD) flat-out told me he needs more money from me at the end of the night. The way things work at the door, I shake you down for whatever I can – dress code violations, expired licenses or the ubiquitous “I just plain don’t like you” charge – and I take the extra money you give me and put it in my pocket. At the end of the night, I hand a percentage of this to JD. He’s known me forever, and he knows I’m not a thief, so we’re on the honor system. A few of the other door guys have to give JD a fixed amount every single night, because he doesn’t trust them. He doesn’t tell them he doesn’t trust them in so many words, but that’s the reason he asks for a specific sum.

This system is a fair one. We don’t complain about it much. This is because we know JD has to kick back a certain portion of his take to management. Also, if it wasn’t for JD, we wouldn’t be at the door in the first place, so the choice is a no-brainer: we either give him some kind of vig, or we go back inside, stand on a box, and go home with nothing but shift pay. And everyone, by now, knows exactly how I feel about standing on boxes sans grease. Fuck that.

The bouncing chain of command works like any other chain of command in any other job. If JD gets reamed upstairs, he comes downstairs and reams us. In fairness to him, he somehow manages to buffer these ass-chewings better than anyone I’ve ever worked for. There’ve been times where I just know he’s taken it directly up the rectum from one of the owners, yet in his pre-shift meeting that night, he’ll treat us like grown men, calmly and reasonably explaining what’s expected without raising his voice even once.

So when he came to me the other night and told me he needed a bigger chunk, I knew it wasn’t greed that was motivating him. I know the man too well to think he’d capriciously ask me, of his own accord, for any more of my take than he’d need to help satisfy the people at the top of the chain.

“You and Freddie makin’ about the same amount off the line every night?” he asked before our shift began Saturday night.

“Pretty much. It’s gotta be close, anyway. We’re doing the same thing to the same amount of people, so I don’t see how either one of us could be way ahead of the other one unless someone starts collecting their own covers, and neither one of us does that.”

“That’s what I figured.”

I took a sip of the coffee he’d brought me from the deli down the block. I knew exactly what was coming. The only thing I didn’t know was whether he’d be delicate in the asking. “Why do you wanna know? Am I low?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “I hate to be the one to tell you that, but you are. I’m gettin’ less from you than I am from him just about every night.”

“I know what he gives you. I just figured I should stay with the percentage until you said something ‘cause of the extra cash he makes off the guestlist.”

“It’s fine, Rob. Nobody’s saying you’re bein’ greedy. All I’m gonna ask you to do is match Freddie for now. Make the difference up however you want. Sell your guestlist. Grab a couple more people off the line. Fuck, you can roll someone for all I care. I don’t give a shit what you guys do up here. I just wanna make sure I walk downstairs at the end of the night with at least some of the cash I went up there with.”

What does this mean for you? For one thing, it means the little favors I used to do for $10 – access to a VIP host, a trip to the private bathrooms before going inside, or a couple of extra drink tickets in your pocket – are now going to cost you $20. It also means I’m no longer selling package deals. No more “six admissions for the price of five” on my guestlist. No more, “one twenty dollar bill covers two guys’ dress code violations.” No more, “benefit of the doubt because he hit me up the last three times.” Fuck that. Everybody pays now, because I have to pay.

And don’t think we’ll be accepting food for free admission anymore, so if you own a local restaurant, pizzeria or souvlaki pit, leave the victuals at home and bring cash for once in your miserable life. I’m on a fucking diet now, anyway. Have been for months. All I need these days is grilled chicken, tunafish and whey, so save the gratuitous Dunkin’ Donuts deliveries for next November – if I’m still a bouncer, that is – which is about the time I figure it’ll be okay to turn back into a fat fuck.

Don’t blame me for this, either. Blame management for juicing the workingman. Blame the fickle nature of Manhattanite clubgoers, the majority of whom gave up on this fucking place two years ago, forcing management to desperately scramble for cash and eventually pinch us – and you – in the process. Blame all these underage mutants from Long Island and Jersey who keep getting themselves, and us, in trouble with the police. Every time they fuck things up for us, there’s money flying out of both my pocket and yours, because I’ll be passing the cost on to you. Don’t like it? Don’t come to my club.

But haven’t I been telling you that for a while now?