The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more. Write to him for everything from live advice to life advice.
Dear Door Guy:
We've lost our favorite bar.
For years, my BF and I were regulars at this place. We knew everyone who worked there, drank there during happy hour, and saw a ton of bands. The bartenders were always good for a free drink or two and we never got any static. Recently, we show up and it's not the same. They've made a bunch of changes and they've got some new door guy who doesn't recognize us.
A lot of good times were had there but now we aren't treated like we're part of the place anymore. How do you break up with your bar?
— Rejected Regular
This is one of those questions that causes an instant split reaction the second I read it. There's a good portion of me — at least half — that feels your pain all too well, because I've experienced it as well. We live in a culture of five-minute cool that puts Warhol's thing about 15 minutes of fame to shame, where it starts to feel like nothing is concrete and rooted in anything any more. Bands come and go, trends come and go, it's over before we knew it started, and like a terrible late-night hookup, all they leave in their wake is something annoying and gross. (Like those goddamned hats. Stop wearing them. They're like the VD of hipster fashion. You know the ones I'm talking about.)
The next big thing today is yesterday's news before the sun goes down and rock clubs and bars are just as susceptible to such quick changes. For people who've spent years hanging out somewhere because they love the atmosphere or the “scene” associated with the bar, or simply because it's in their neighborhood, attachments grow and such changes totally suck. I'm not immune to this, either. I'm not some wandering white-hat door guy who strolls into town just long enough to clean up the place like Kane from Kung Fu or Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse.
I've worked many places and the places I've loved the most were the ones where I felt like I was part of something much bigger than what can a boring, frustrating, assembly-line like job. Those jobs were the ones that inspired me to actually think about how to do my job and do it well. Sometimes places I've worked have changed: stopped doing shows I loved, chased a completely different customer base, made doing my job unnecessarily difficult, or God help me, asked me to wear a yellow shirt. So I get it, Rejected, I really do.
Except ... I've also been that new door guy, that harbinger of change, the guy who came in when the owner realized he needed someone a little more serious than his drunk buddy collecting the cover. And from that point of view, Rejected, some of your fellow change-fearing regulars can be total dicks.
For a door guy who's just trying to do his job, regulars who walk in with chips on their shoulders and a bad case of “Don't You Know Who I Am?” Syndrome are the absolute worst. I've been in situations where people screamed at me because they weren't let in before doors officially opened for no other reason than the fact that they used to hang out there every day five years and two managers ago. I've seen those same people waved in by their favorite bartender and then get mad at her when she doesn't immediately reward their presence with an open bar tab at a sold-out show. And in plenty of cases, I've ended up having to throw them out because of their unrelenting, confrontational, shitty attitudes, even though someone assured me that they were “cool.”
As I trust that people who read this column don't assume that everyone in my world is a power-tripping jackass, I trust that you are not one of those regulars. Still, you (and I) have something in common with those people. We might not be assholes, but we all share something called Entitlement Bias. That's a fancy way of saying that we believe that as long as we continue doing the same thing, we should be able to continue having the same sort of result. We're attached. Because we're used to a certain kind of treatment, and certain feelings of comfort, we shouldn't ever lose that. But for better or for worse, life just doesn't work like that.
The dirty truth is that your favorite dive bar or rock venue or nightclub isn't a validation for your ego or a lifelong relationship — it is an ever-changing business. Sometimes those changes are so incremental that you don't even notice. Sometimes they're so huge that you don't even recognize the place anymore. But before you start talking about breaking up with your bar, consider this: That place probably existed before you. When you started going there, you might have been part of a change that the old regulars didn't like, and they may very well have had the same gripes as you. They might have felt pushed out and unappreciated by you. I can tell you that I've been places where the regulars hated the fact that the bad cover bands they loved so much were gone that they made life miserable for the cool bands you love so much. Eventually, they gave up and moved on. There's only so many bar stools.
So, Rejected, ask yourself: What matters to you? If it's the free drinks and the sense that it's “your place,” I can't help you. On the other hand, do you still get to see bands you really like? Even if you don't recognize every single person there, are the faces still friendly? If so, why call it a breakup?