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What it’s Really Like Being the Door Guy at a Bar

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Guest Post by Ace Annese

Greetings and Salutations, Earthlings! I am your friendly neighborhood Security Professional, more commonly referred to as a “Door Guy”. One thing I and many of my peers dislike is the term “Bouncer”. A “Bouncer” is usually (but not always) perceived as a thug who grunts and tosses people out of bars with little or no thought. At the very least, I am NOT that guy. I have over 30 years experience in various security capacities. I have had thorough training on procedures by licensed professionals, and by representatives from the California State Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC). My current spot is at 15 Romolo, a quaint little establishment just off Broadway in North Beach. I’ve been there a little over 2 years, and I have formed a symbiotic relationship with my coworkers. They like that I am there to make things easier for them, and I enjoy having their trust and respect.

I should state for the record that the vast majority of people who come through the portal to enjoy our elixirs (and yummy food too) are friendly and cooperative. That makes the job fun. Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems I encounter is that some people who come to my door decide to not bring any identification. Astonishingly, these people seemingly think they don’t need to have an ID to be in a drinking establishment. Or at all, apparently. This fascinates me. In every case, these individuals will carry credit cards with them, forgetting that often people will ask to see an ID to confirm the card belongs to the person presenting it. And don’t even get me started on why it’s just a good idea to have your ID on your person in case of some unforeseen injury, illness or other emergency. The thing is, people are probably confused by signage in liquor stores that declare “We card anyone who appears to be under the age of 30”, etc. This does NOT apply when going to a bar or age 21+ venue that serves alcohol. Essentially, EVERYONE who wants to enter an establishment that serves alcohol MUST HAVE AN ID (with the exception of All Ages entertainment venues where food is served). It doesn’t matter how old you are or appear to be. If you can’t produce one, legally we are obligated to excuse anyone who does not have a valid ID. Nothing personal!

The author working the door at 15 Romolo

Now, understandably, this causes some people consternation. But the letter the law is that each person must have his or her own ID (and not just a picture on a phone). My primary function is to ensure that this is the case. Why? Because the penalties are pretty draconian: a violation can result in a Ten Thousand Dollar ($10k) fine, and as much as 28 day suspension of our Liquor License. One of the things the ABC tells trainees is that they will send decoys in to test whether or not its procedures are being followed. So essentially, I have to be on my game at all times, and be wary of anyone who attempts to enter without an ID. If I don’t, we can be fined and shut down. Then my boss and my coworkers are pissed, and we all lose money. So forgive me if I am zealously protective of our establishment.

It’s important to note that none of this gives me any pleasure. I derive no enjoyment whatsoever, despite what some might think. It’s just a job. So, please, do not attempt to attribute that motivation to myself or any of my colleagues. Furthermore, getting indignant and attempting to bully me into allowing you entry – especially because you “aren’t aware” of any such requirement – is not appropriate. Ignorance of the laws and regulations doesn’t mean you are exempted. Arguing doesn’t help. Recently, I had a drunk older white guy became outright belligerent and refused to stop blocking my doorway so that other guests could gain entry. I stayed calm, but with firm resolve informed the person in question that his stubborn refusal to leave meant that he was now trespassing, and was subject to removal – including a potential intervention by the SFPD. This drunken fool actually insisted that I should indeed call the police, much to the dismay and embarrassment of his companions. So, to de-escalate the scenario, I stepped away, and informed the manager on duty that I was excusing this person. She was in full agreement, and so I made a call to SFPD. As I did so, the guy was dragged away by his pals, who were clearly humiliated. All along he claimed there was no such requirement to produce an ID. “What law?”, he drunkenly insisted. Again, regardless of whether or not one is “aware” of a law, doesn’t mean you aren’t subject to it. Ignorance is no excuse!

Some other issues that crop up: taking drinks outside, bringing beverages in from outside or even having ANY kind of open containers in front of the club. Again, there is often a form of righteous indignation when people get challenged. For the record, almost every city and town in the United States prohibits consumption of alcohol in public. Las Vegas and New Orleans are probably 2 of the very few exceptions. Nowhere in California permits anyone to do so. Again, the penalties above apply. Now, one of the other things that people do not get is the “no open containers” requirement. “It’s just water!” they cry. But if you have a glass of anything outside, the authorities don’t know or care what’s in it. We are required to stop any and all from bringing anything outside. Related to this: previously opened containers purchased elsewhere – of any kind – fall under this regulation. I am obligated to either confiscate the container, regardless of contents, or have you pour it out. Finishing it beforehand is really the best idea. As a matter of etiquette, it’s also bad form to bring a beverage of any kind from outside to consume in a bar that makes its money by selling drinks, regardless of whether there is booze in it or not. Bringing outside alcohol in particular is against the law. Amazingly, some people don’t seem to think it’s a bad idea.

Another recent incident involved a group of people who came into the bar, and proceeded to use their own alcohol and even there own containers (!) to drink booze at a table right near the bar! When our staff informed them this was inappropriate, they protested with that same righteous indignation and stubborn refusal to adhere to the rules. When I was called to intervene, one of these entitled schmucks got in my face, and refused to leave! This resulted in another standoff where I had to invoke the right to refuse service, and that he and his party were subject to removal by SFPD if they weren’t going to leave voluntarily. Two people slinked away, but this entitled white dude forced his date to endure further embarrassment, until I dialed the cops. Then she said “Time to go”, and they eventually left, but not before the fool spun around and yelled “OK we’re going – but fuck you anyway”. A real class act this guy was. I should note that his date then gave him a verbal tongue-lashing as they made their way down the block, which served him right. Another incident involved four forty-something white women who were drinking an open container of alcohol as they walked up – and one didn’t have an ID! When I informed them they weren’t permitted to enter the premises, I was subjected to belittling, condescension, and a stream of invectives. None of which incentivized me to allow them to join us for more revelry (apparently, it was the birthday of the girl without ID). The slightly toasted spokesperson of the group said, and I am not making this up, that I was a “rules guy”. Ummm, YES! I am a “rules guy”. I am charged with enforcing these rules and regs, and I do so without malice. What’s your excuse?

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Then there are other minor, but important, infractions that people don’t seem to get: Blocking doorways or stairwells is one in particular. Please, for the love of all that is (un)holy, DO NOT BLOCK doorways or stairs. EVER. The City and State have regulations that require these to be clear at all times. Why? Very simply, it’s a Fire Code violation. In the event of an emergency, these must be free of obstructions so that people are able to exit quickly. There are horror stories of blocked exits and stairwells where people were unable to find a means of egress to flee to safety. In a panic, people will just trample anyone or anything in their way, and if you are twiddling on the phone (or whatever) when such an event occurs and you are blocking one or both, you will be essentially responsible for any misfortune that occurs. So, don’t be “that guy” (or girl). In particular, our doorway at 15 Romolo has multiple doors and a small enclosure with stairs, and people just love to congregate there, especially when it’s cold or raining. Basically, if you want to be warm or dry, wait inside!

The author and Broke-Ass Stuart one night when Stuart came by the bar. Stuart of course had his ID on him.

Related to the above is the smoking thing. I personally am a life-long nonsmoker. I hate it with a passion, as do others who either haven’t smoked or are otherwise tobacco-free. The law clearly states that smokers must be a MINIMUM OF 20 FEET from open doors or windows. Yet there are some militant smokers who have little to no regard for others, and obviously, none for their own personal health. The Surgeon General’s report on smoking was issued around the time I was born, some 57 years ago. This is a filthy and unhealthy habit. It is going to kill you. Alcohol, in moderation, won’t. But there is no ‘moderation” with tobacco. Even a little is bad, especially when combined with booze. It’s your right to smoke despite the health risks, but it’s our right to ensure you don’t have us inhale that foul crap as well. So, please back the hell away from the front of the club, and don’t complain! It’s not our problem you have decided to pollute your body. And yes, vaping counts too!

So, what have we learned today, kids? In short: !. BRING YOUR ID! 2. Don’t bring drinks outside, or outside refreshments in. 3. Don’t block doorways or stairways. 4. Don’t smoke near open doors or windows.

In general, please BE NICE. Please be cooperative, even if you “never heard of” a rule, regulation, or law. Remember that if you are drunk or belligerent, I, or someone like me, can and will exercise discretion and bar entry to the establishment. Treat staff members with respect, and your visit to our happy little oasis can be beyond pleasurable. Lastly, please share this with your friends to help all of us have a better time and make things easier.


Ace Annese is a writer, DJ/MC, actor, door guy and Producer and host of Reality Check TV.

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