Bouncers and the Dark Side of Clubbing

A tightly-packed queue winding round the block, drunken jeers and flying cans of Budweiser soaring above our heads as we stand like sardines.  Elbows jabbing, crushed toes and the prematurely sweaty backs of rugby lads pressed against our faces.  This rather tragic scene is common to most student club nights as they gear up for hours of jägerbomb-fuelled black-outs and countless regrets.  Facing the queue is one of the most exasperating parts of clubbing, it’s annoying existence only being trumped by one other aspect of the evening: bouncers.  Whether you’ve only ever experienced their death stare as they peruse your provisional license; the picture making you look like something between a prepubescent teenager and a hitman, or you’ve experienced their great guns lift you through the air so you’re soaring like a bird straight to the exit, bouncers appear to exude intimidation from their very pores.

As protectors standing at the gates of an alcohol-infused playground, they hold great responsibility, deciding who will be permitted entry and who will be forced to take the sad and defeated early trip to McDonalds.  Although we like to believe we belong to changing times, entering a nightclub is like regressing a few decades when it comes to feminism and sexism.  Club owner Alex Proud admits that although he tries to instruct his bouncers not to judge female partiers based on their looks, “at many, if not the majority of clubs, beautiful girls go straight to the front of the line – and do so even if they’re a bit rude and drunk.” He even goes on to give the advice, “If you can’t be a beautiful girl yourself, have a friend who is a beautiful girl – as the beautiful girl halo effect will usually admit up to four people”.  This might be less true for student clubs, where I’ve been admitted wearing everything from an oversized pink nightie (to be fair, I was a zombie child for Halloween) to indecently tight, bright red hot pants.  But when it comes to mainstream clubbing, you have to come equipped with heels, a tiny dress and extensions.  This inequality at the front of the line does not end with women, however.  There are strict rules based on gender lines: female you’re in, male (without a female companion) you’re out.  Unless you’re willing to bribe the woman next to you with free entry and a drink in the club, the single man can pretty much forget entry into the high security clubs.

Many hold the opinion that bouncers operate on a kind of power trip, that the freedom to decide who can and cannot enter the club gives them a sense of authority.  They appear to forget that their real responsibility is not picking and choosing the prettiest of the bunch, but protecting those who are waiting to pass through the club’s doors.  And yet this is the fatal crux; the heart of the issue.  Bouncers no long seem to be protecting the people.  Yes, they care about maintaining order, ensuring that nothing is vandalised and no fights break out.  But there is no sympathy and a complete lack of compassion.  As soon as a student has had one too many drinks they are dehumanised, becoming only a walking (if they are still capable) liability which could pose a threat to the stability of the club.  I fell victim to the harsh repercussions of excessive drinking when, crouching to the floor because I felt a wave of nausea, and upon standing felt hands on either side haul me away from friends.  I was perfectly capable of walking, I had not broken any rules and simply because in a quick, yet mistaken glance, I appeared to be vomiting. I was rejected without warning and without the chance to explain myself.  Worst of all is the fact they removed me from friends so I was left in the street, drunk and alone.  If I had the opportunity, I would like to ask them about their moral responsibility.  I would question how they could separate someone so vulnerable from their friends and leave them on a dark side street at one in the morning.  

Third year medic, Ed Jackson, recently experienced a shortage of sympathy from bouncers when he visited Rock City in Nottingham a few weeks ago.  The onset of an asthma attack forced him to exit the queue, leaving him doubled over on the pavement.  Due to the environment, it was assumed that he was being sick even though Ed tried to explain his situation to the bouncers.  He has gone on to comment that “when I rang the general manager of Carpe Noctum to discuss what happened he was very happy to talk about the poor behaviour of students in the queue but quick to shirk any responsibility of the club/his company.”


So far bouncers have been painted as unsympathetic, heartless figures, possessing outdated attitudes which don’t belong in the 21st century.  And yet, there is always another side.  They have a pretty rough deal, standing in the cold for hours on end while revellers whisk past them in a drunken frenzy.  Very rarely are they offered the respect we expect from them.  Quite often they too are subject to aggressive and intimidating behaviour, such is the case with city banker Mark Haslett after he attacked a Soho nightclub bouncer after being refused entry.  The simple nature of going to a nightclub, an environment which promotes intoxication, triggers danger.  If we find fault with the bouncers, perhaps the institution itself should also come under further examination.

Edited by India-Jayne Trainor