I woke up one day from a particularly convoluted sleep and realized something was severely lacking in my life.
See, once upon a time, I wrote this column that people seemed to enjoy where I gave people advice. My qualifications: I’ve spent the better part of 25 years trying to figure people out one ID at a time working door at a bar.
But a while back, I stopped writing the column, for reasons that I don’t really want to get into. But like that dude who fell off a donkey a bunch of years ago and decided to change his name and start telling people what to do, I realized that I missed this. Really missed this. Not just the sense that people enjoyed something I did, though that was a nice ego boost. More than that, I really liked that people seemed to think that I was helpful, and felt comfortable emailing me questions about things really troubling them, and not just whiny complaints about getting 86’d from their favorite bar and isn’t that just bullshit?
So, with the ringing endorsement from Music-Editor-On-High Keith Harris, I dusted the cobwebs off my Door Guy email for the first time in almost two years and got down to business. What aspect of arcane door guy knowledge needed to be shared? What failing relationship could I save? What aging semi-disabled metalhead could I help find the most comfortable spot in a rock venue to see his favorite thrash band? Who needed advice about cleaning their gutters?
And folks, every goddammed email, to a one, for the past two years...whiny complaints about getting 86’d from their favorite bar and isn’t that just bullshit?
Are you fucking kidding me? From Minneapolis to London, St. Paul to gay Paree, Roseville to I-shit-you-not India, it’s a goddam epidemic of people getting banhammered and complaining to me. But I gotta go with the questions I got. My apologies to the many people who wrote, but I’m only running excerpts from the many emails I received. Hopefully we can put this one to bed for the last time – with a major exception we’ll get to later.
Dear Door Guy: I’m super mad. I’m banned from my favorite bar/club/pub/venue/strip joint/roadhouse/Denny’s/shoe store. Is that fair?
--Two Years of Complaining
Dear Two Years:
You want to know if this is fair? If you’re the kid from England who got banned because he had been going somewhere underage for years and the door staff figured it out after he turned legal age, yeah, that’s fair. You committed fraud and you threw it in their face. If you’re the guy who was accused of not paying his tab even though he had the credit card receipt to prove it, I was totally on your side until “The bartender got real shitty with me and I got shitty back, called her a few regrettable names and she then told me I was banned.” Calling a worker bee “a few regrettable names” is bad decision-making. If you’re getting mad and losing your shit – even if someone else started it -- you have to walk away. As a door guy, I work hard to be reasonable until someone crosses the line. You, my friend, crossed the line.
If you’re the guy who literally emailed me Friday: “Hey mate I've been banned from a club that is no longer open over two years again now and I don't know what to do. I tried calling and emailing the same venue in a diff area but no help. Please advise me what to do.” Hey mate, I admire your motivation. I’m not sure why you’re still trying to get into a place after two years, but you didn’t give me a lot of details. My advice: You can’t make someone return a phone call, and standing outside their window proclaiming your love only works in movies. Go somewhere else.
Bottom line for almost everyone who wrote in: “fair” doesn’t really matter here. There’s no Party-Time High Court to adjudicate disputes between disgruntled customers and members of the Door Guy Guild. There’s just some worker bees trying to do their jobs and some customers either enjoying themselves or fucking up. Lots of us (door guys and customers) are solid, reasonable people. Lots of us are assholes. More often than not, depending on the moment, we’re both. But ultimately, any business is private property and whether someone stays or goes, and when and how they’re allowed to return is entirely up to the business. It’s inherently an uneven power dynamic, but almost no one who wrote in had issues that would get people marching in the streets for their civil rights. (And yes, I include the awful zombie people who feel “their civil rights are being violated” when bars don’t let them in on Zombie Pub Crawl night.)
But then there are the guys I’ll call K and A (because I am out of practice and can’t come up with cute nicknames for them). K is from the UK, A didn’t say but I’m guessing the UK as well. Both wrote in complaining not just that they had been kicked out of bars unfairly, but that the establishments were then able to enter their ID with a permanent black mark into a master database shared by other places that used the same ID scanner.
In other words, because someone decided that they were a problem at one place, all places think they’re problems. This is utterly terrifying.
As much as I have the back of my fellow worker bees, we don’t exactly have an exceptional screening process for hiring and many places don’t do any training at all. We’re a fickle and capricious bunch, and there’s no way I’d want 90 percent of the people I’ve worked with or for over the years making a judgment call that would affect anything outside of our own house. Bars and clubs in the US do have access to similar technology as what K and A describe in their emails. While I haven’t personally seen ID scanners that connected to a master database yet, it’s entirely possible.
Remember when large national companies were buying up concert venues around the nation? Can you imagine being banned from all of them? Without some sort of monitoring process this is total bullshit. It’s profoundly de-skilling to those of us who have worked this job for a long time and have made a point of becoming very good at interacting with people. But what’s more important is that it’s a completely unregulated dive into people’s privacy.
K and A both emailed months ago, but I’ve contacted them and hope they’ll go into more detail for a future column. For the rest of the folks who emailed: I’m sorry you got banned. I’m sorry the manager isn’t returning your calls. Sorry I disappeared for 18 months. Just count yourself lucky you aren’t on a national “no-fun” list.
And for everyone else: Please ask about something else -- anything else -- OK?
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 at [email protected]