Confessions of a bouncer: Drunk patron threatened to kill me

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Christmas and New Year holidays are hardly jolly for Steven.

When he was a bouncer at a local club, that was the period people sought to get drunk and end up causing havoc.

Once, a violent drunk tried to stab his face with a broken wine glass, almost blinding him.

Says the 42-year-old: "Thankfully, my reflexes were quick."

Another man, who had to be escorted out of the club, even told him: "I'm going to kill you after this."

Through his 10-year stint, Steven has been in the thick of brawls and has had to throw drunks out of clubs for causing trouble and starting fights.

So when he read about the Boat Quay brawl that led to the death of American stuntman John Denley Nelson on Christmas Eve, he was hardly surprised.

Says Steven: "This is the time when you get the crowds, and everyone is trying to get drunk. From my experience, people can be really nice to you until they have had a few drinks."

He has worked in Clarke Quay clubs to Boat Quay pubs since he was 24.

In 2005, he left his job as a bouncer but continues to work as a consultant for clubs and bars, advising them on security issues.

We are not using his real name as it will get his former employers in trouble, especially since establishments do not want to be associated with fights.

Steven says he has seen many alcohol-fuelled incidents over the years.

He recounts these stories like how a war veteran would talk about his battle scars.

Once, he kicked out an angry patron for disturbing other patrons.

The patron later wanted to re-enter the club but was stopped by bouncers. He then decided to phone in a bomb hoax.

Says Steven: "The guy was eventually arrested. This was right after the 2005 Bali bomb blasts, so tensions were high."

LOOKOUT

As bouncers, their job is to keep a lookout for potential trouble on the dance floor and de-escalate situations before they turn ugly.

Spotted taking drugs?

Or offering sex for money?

Out you go, says Steven.

But confrontations between patrons remain the trickiest to handle.

"It means poking your nose into arguments and telling them to break it up because no one wants to go home unhappy," he says.

"It is just to tell them that we are watching them. I always believe that you will go further with a kind word than with a loaded gun."

But if a fight does break out, bouncers are trained to cordon off the area and push the fight out of the club so that it doesn't affect other patrons.

He has intervened in fights that were escalating outside the clubs too. He says he would try to bundle the opponents into different taxis.

Bouncers will also not hesitate to call the police on brawlers.

"People go to the club to have fun. No one wants to end the night with a rioting charge," says Steven.

He confesses that club regulars are not exempt from being thrown out, something which rubs club managers the wrong way.

"They have to understand that while some patrons are high rollers, if their behaviour causes the rest of the club to leave, it is an overall loss for the club," he says.

Besides resolving conflicts, bouncers also have to be stationed at club entrances and decide who gets to enter.

There, he has seen patrons try to bribe their way through with hundreds of dollars.

But this hardly works as the bouncers work in pairs and are watched by closed-circuit television cameras, he says.

There are also ladies who try to flirt with the bouncers to get a free pass.

He says, laughing: "Well, they can befriend us, but we tell them that since we are friends now, why not do me a favour and queue up?"

SECRETS OF THE TRADE

1 If patrons buy you drinks, do not take more than a sip. Remind them that you are on duty and have to remain sober.

2 While not required, knowledge in martial arts comes in useful when things go awry.

3 A keen, focused eye is needed to look out for trouble. Many new bouncers fail to do their job because they are ogling at pretty faces instead.


This article was first published on January 10, 2016.
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