The responsibilities of bouncers is a difficult area to define clearly. With their roles being surrounded by an atmosphere of heavy drinking and impaired judgement, uncertainty arises as to whether their responsibilities to maintain club security and ensure the safety of those inside the venue should take precedence over (and sometimes completely displace) the safety of the more disruptive clubbers they encounter.
With every club comes its posse of men in black, primed to check your ID and your ability to still walk in a straight line. Their primary role revolves around stopping the underage, too drunk or too aggressive from gaining entry and creating anarchy in the club they faithfully guard. However, sometimes, it seems, bouncers can stray from this standard definition, with their responsibilities becoming somewhat hazy when faced with swathes of drunk clubbers.
A person’s relationship with a bouncer on a night out can vary immensely. Sometimes they are our saviours. They prevent chaos on our nights out through their perceptiveness in observing aggressive drunk party-goers on the verge of picking unnecessary alcohol-fuelled fights with strangers, taking the loud brawler with them and saving you a much undeserved black eye.
Let’s consider the perspective of our disruptive brawler. Yes, they were being violent and, yes, they violated their right to stay inside the club, but they’re also heavily under the influence of alcohol, penniless and without a phone. After being kicked out by the bouncers, our brawler has suddenly become a far greater risk to themselves than anyone else.
‘There are occasions where responsibilities have become warped and suddenly removal of an overly drunk clubber has become more aggressive than was ever necessary’
This is where a bouncer’s responsibility becomes a grey area. Admittedly, they have fulfilled their primary role and kept the peace inside the club, but in doing so they have also created a situation involving a vulnerable young adult without any way of getting home. Is it a lack of human compassion when a bouncer leaves you “in a state” to fend for yourself, at risk of accidents, assaults, muggings, or is it just an impossible task for bouncers to try and protect every clubber that becomes just a bit too familiar with the tequila shots?
‘Tales of being turned away for seemingly little reason, or being forced to prove sobriety with ridiculous tasks before being allowed entry become student gossip every week’
And what about the matter of the arguably callous attitude of some bouncers, and where that falls on their list of responsibilities? Stories about ruthless encounters with bouncers and their verbal or even physical abuse is not unheard of at university. There are occasions where responsibilities have become warped and suddenly removal of an overly drunk clubber has become more aggressive than was ever necessary.
In June 2014, for instance, three bouncers of a London club were charged and acquitted with gross negligence manslaughter after a clubber died after being pinned to the floor for 6 minutes. Despite the clubber becoming “verbally abusive,” could such extreme action by the three bouncers ever be deemed acceptable?
The queues for clubs also often spark unpleasant clashes between bouncer and clubber. Tales of being turned away for seemingly little reason, or being forced to prove sobriety with ridiculous tasks before being allowed entry become student gossip every week. It begs the question over where such behaviours arise on the bouncer job description, and why they seemingly believe they can abuse their power in such bold, and at times dangerous ways.
However, there is a lot to be said for regularly working in such an anarchic environment; even if it does desensitise bouncers into thinking such conduct is always necessary in order to keep the peace, can we blame them? When an aggressive student, 10 jaegerbombs down, starts swinging for them and they respond with a less than civil reply, do we sympathise over the fact that bouncers don’t deserve the treatment they’re receiving?
‘It can be difficult to understand who the real victim is’
In August 2016 a bouncer working at a Nottingham nightclub was put on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in the club toilets. Upon review of the CCTV evidence, it came to light that the accusations made against the bouncer did not stand up and he was cleared of all charges. However, until this verdict had been drawn he had been suspended from all three jobs he kept, including a job as a carer. The bouncer described the woman who reported the incident to other staff members as being “in a complete state.”
In situations such as this, it can be difficult to understand who the real victim is. Sexual assault is an immensely grave and horrifying act, and hence the only way to approach such accusations is with the utmost seriousness. However, a wrong or misjudged accusation of abuse can also destroy another’s life, as was the case for this Nottingham bouncer.
‘The underlying issue is that in such an alcohol-clouded environment, our usual ability to distinguish between culprit and victim becomes distorted’
Of course, there are many instances where aggression matched with aggression is not the answer, and certainly has the potential to do more harm than good. It can even be questionable if sympathising with bouncers’ stressful responsibilities can impair an observers’ judgements regarding the ethics of their methods of control and restraint.
Equally, the underlying issue is that in such an alcohol-clouded environment, our usual ability to distinguish between culprit and victim becomes distorted and, as a result, accusations of assault can end up being false or even completely missed.
With the number of cases of disagreed-upon conflict occurring between bouncers and revellers being seemingly regular, along with the ambiguity surrounding the debate as to whether force is always necessary and completely ethical, it is unlikely that the exact duties will ever be truly agreed upon.
Either way, in the meantime, the apparent commonality of accusations and misunderstandings surely proves an incentive for all of us to be responsible on nights out.
By Jennifer Peck
Featured image: ‘Walking’, courtesy of Anders Eriksson via Flickr (License); no changes made to image.
Sources Used: The Metro and Nottingham Post