A Bouncer in Notts

Illustrations: Alex McDougall
Thursday 15 February 2018
reading time: min, words

"We get a bit of a bad rap; we’re either 'man-whores' or 'thugs' and most of us are neither."


When I was a teenager, people used to say “Go and be a bouncer, it’ll suit ya, you’ll be really good at it.” I never wanted to do it; I stumbled across it by accident. But, you know what, it’s the best job I've ever had. Still to this day, I love it. What I don't like is jumping through hoops for managers, but that’s another story.

I was going to be a dog handler originally, and the gentleman I was going into business with was a police officer with the CID in the Met. We’d done our SIA training course to start a security firm up, but he decided he wasn’t going to take an early retirement, so that never took off.

I had a badge lying around at home, and one day a guy from the gym said “If you’ve got a badge, why don’t you come and do some work for me?” I started off in a small town doing the, shall we say, “less desirable” venues that the big companies aren’t interested in. And that’s how it all began.

It’s never a typical shift. The only thing that's typical is going to work and coming home. Some days everybody who comes to the venue is nice, and other days the entire city turns to chaos. We say that there’s a full moon; that’s a doorman’s term, meaning “You’re probably in for a bit of trouble tonight.” You get a feeling for it. I think it’s usually when people drink too much and it's not very busy; people don’t have to queue, meaning they drink a lot more alcohol a lot faster.

There’s also what we call “find the crowd.” If venues are very busy, what people tend to do is go in and have a quick one, and then go to another venue and have another quick one. Before they know it, they’ve had six or seven quick ones and they’re a bit tipsy.

I’ve been quite lucky in my career in that I’ve always managed to miss the really late jobs; I never worked on the nightclubs. I work bars and pubs, so I finish at about two in the morning and I go home and have some food and a cigarette, and go to bed. That’s my relaxation. I don’t get overly stressed, I try to keep the job as a job, and I do take it 100% seriously. This is what I do for a living.

Sometimes there are nights where I go home and I can’t sleep for a couple hours after I’ve got in bed. That’s just me. I don't think that’s specific to the job; if I was doing something else, I’d probably still go home to think about it, you know. Sometimes I don’t sleep, sometimes I do; that’s just the way it goes.

The most difficult thing is keeping everybody happy. You’ve got to find the right balance between upholding the law, keeping the venue safe, and keeping the management happy; it’s against the law to allow people to drink too much, but it's also a business, so we have to put money in the till.

Recently we had nearly a thousand students through the door in one night, and them guys are fantastic. They come in and they’re so happy, you know, they’re so friendly, and they’re the nights you work for. The worst night of the year is either St. Patrick’s Day or Black Friday.

I don’t drink. The profession I chose is very unforgiving regarding seeing the influence of alcohol on people. I hate having to remove females or old people, and I don’t particularly like getting physical; it’s always the last resort. To become physical with a female is always very tricky, it leaves you open to a minefield of claims about inappropriate conduct. Definitely the least favourable part of my job.

We’re there to help people, you know, and that also includes members of the public who aren’t in our venue. If we see someone who’s worse for wear – passed out in the street, or having difficulty finding their way around the city – we’re there to help them as well. What we tend to do – because the police are not interested – is to pass them onto the Nottingham Street Pastors. They’re absolutely fantastic; genuinely sent by God.

I think the public should be made aware that we’re not the police, and we’re there to help them. The main role of the door supervisor is to assist the public. We get a bit of a bad rap; we’re either “man-whores” or “thugs” and most of us are neither.

I don’t think much has changed over the years. Some people go out to get drunk, some people go out to enjoy themselves, and the odd twat goes out to be a problem. There was a girl the other week who decided that she was just going to piss outside Subway. That was a pretty strange occurance. Probably something like half past nine, ten o'clock at night and she decided to pull her pants down and squat in the street.

In some of the more quiet, local towns, you see the same people week after week, to the point where you know Dave and Helen will come in at ten o’clock. She’ll have a vodka-Red Bull, he’ll have a pint of Carling, they’ll stand in the same corner, they’ll stay for thirty minutes and they’ll walk out.

There’s not one specific type of person that goes out, but I would say there are specific types of people for specific venues. I did the Northern Soul night in Mansfield for a while, and that was over-fifties; them guys used to come in, listen to the music they listened to when they were teenagers and have a few beers. They loved it. I personally couldn’t stand it, but you know.

Sometimes, when nobody’s looking, I might have a cheeky look at my phone like everybody does. I sneak into what I call an office, which is basically a porch, where we have to do a capacity log every thirty minutes. That enables me to get my phone out and use the calculator, and gives me a good excuse to have my phone in my hand. I occasionally, when single, get telephone numbers too.

I personally need to get another five years out of my career. I’ve just bought a house, so I’ve got a five-year game plan. After another five years, I think I’m gonna retire and then maybe go into being the dog handler that I wanted to be ten years ago.

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