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Working The Door: No Public Restroom!

I'm new to the door man game, but I think I'm getting good at it. After all, I learned everything I know about working in bars from Road House. Expect the unexpected. Be polite - until it's time not to be polite. Remember, it's just a job; it's nothing personal. If a customer give you trouble, walk him to the door. Never start anything inside the bar. Take out the trash.

Here's how things went one night last weekend.

* The big thing about this particular night was that a neighborhood street festival was going on. We were in the line of fire. Because of bad past experiences, our door was plastered with signs saying "No Public Restroom!" I pranced around the bar before my shift started shouting "No public restroom!" just for practice. It turned out I would need it.

So a guy walks into the bar and asks me if he can have a beer. A strange request that should have tipped me off, but I simply asked to see his ID and let him proceed. He headed straight for the bathroom. When he walked out I kept my eyes on him, which he noticed, so he sat down at the bar and pretended he was going to order a drink. Then he stood up and started to walk out.

Me: You're not going to have a beer?

Him: Well, um, I, uh, was going to but . . .

Me: No you weren't. You just came in to use the bathroom.

Him: Well, um, I, uh . . .

(He starts to walk out.)

Me: You're not welcome back.

* A little while later a woman comes in and takes a long time to dig out her ID, which is valid. Then she heads straight for the bathroom. She comes back to see the disappointed look on my face. "I'm sorry, I just came in to use the bathroom," she says sheepishly, eyes looking down. Then she tried to open the door to leave but couldn't get the door open.

Her: What's going on here?

Me: That's what happens when you don't follow the rules.

I didn't lift a finger to help her navigate the door, the lock, the handle, whatever was holding her back. I just stood there with my arms folded. She figured out how to get the door open and left.

* Two douchey types show me their IDs and walk in. They head straight for the bathroom. Now I've got a head of steam about me. Not on my shift! While the one is in the bathroom, the other waits outside the door. I approach. "You guys are gonna order drinks, right?" I say. "Uh, yeah, I know how it is," the guy says. They each take turns in the bathroom and then, sufficiently intimidated by their otherwise mild-mannered doorman, order a couple beers they don't seem to really want and spend the rest of their brief time there chatting me up and forcing down their brews. These guys were pretty much done. Finally they ask if they can leave with their beers.

Me: No.

Them: We won't tell anyone.

Me: It doesn't matter. What if the police drive by while you're walking out with beers?

Them: There's a [well-known chain store] across the street, we'll just say we got them there.

Me: I don't think that would hold up in court.

I couldn't quite figure out why they wanted to take beers with them that they didn't seem to want in the first place, but I think it was so they wouldn't be embarrassed by admitting that they really just came in to use the bathroom. They'd rather toss their beers out of my sight. Once they finally finished and left, I felt satisfied with my performance.

* I made a guy who set down a plastic beer cup from the festival outside the bar before coming in put it in the trash instead. Not on my shift!

* About a half dozen men and women walk into the bar together, but one doesn't have her ID. "I won't drink, I promise," she says. Sorry, I don't think that will hold up in court either - or at the liquor license revocation hearing. What are people thinking? Who goes anywhere without an ID? I know things used to be looser, but this is Daley's Chicago.

* A guy with a glazy look in his eyes walks in the door and says "I'm a little confused tonight." I ask to see his ID, which is valid, and let him in. I regret it immediately. He was off. I almost went to tell the bartender not to serve him, but she's a pro and she didn't need me to know to turn him away. Lesson learned: Trust my instincts.

* So later a guy comes charging in and I gently lay a hand on him and ask to see his ID. "Sure you can see my ID." And as he fumbles through his wallet he suddenly screams "Fuck you, you can't see my ID!" Then you can't come in I say, gently steering him toward the door. At that point a woman who appeared to be his girlfriend came charging up half-yelling and half-pleading "You can't serve him, he's been overserved!" I know, I said. "You can't serve him, you can't serve him," she kept repeating as I helped walk him out the door. I kept an eye on them in the street because he was slightly belligerent and I wanted to be ready to intervene - or at least witness for the police - any ensuing incident. After a little straggling, they went on their way.

* Under the city's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, customers who go outside to light up must stay at least 15 feet away from the door. At our bar we have a designated smoking area on the sidewalk on one side of the bar. We ask those who smoke on the other side of the bar to please move to the designated area, which has a temporary ash can thingie we put out there. On this night I had to ask several small groups to please move. This is how I do it: "It's not that we're pricks or anything, it's the city. They make us do it and they're really cracking down - they're trying to get revenue from every little thing, be it the parking meters or tickets or what have you. So they're the pricks, not us!" This was a well-received message; yeah, it's us against the Man, man!

Working the door is a lot tougher than it looks. Think about it: You're interacting with humans who are either anxious to drink or have already drunk. If you don't deal well, you could find yourself in a pretty ugly situation. And if you make the wrong kind of mistake, you could lose the bar - or at least incur a heavy penalty. But you also get a chance to meet every person who comes into your establishment, and if you're a pro you garner instant respect. You're an authority figure. Plus, you're working in a bar. What could be better than that?


The pseudononymous Danny Fender works as a doorman at a corner tavern somewhere in the Midwest. He welcomes your comments.


See more tales of door working, security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in our Life at Work collection.


Posted on August 4, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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