The Durham Bouncer: Friend or Foe?

‘But why are bouncers so moody?’ A question asked by most drunkenly inquisitive self-consciences. I guess standing in the Northern cold outside one of The Worst Club’s in Europe (Klute), and having to talk to annoyingly intoxicated patrons who are particularly magnetised to the floor or can’t seem to stop their verbal diarrhea is not the most fun job in the world. But hey, it’s just another day at work.

Seemingly, the underlying problem with bouncers in Durham, and in fact, with bouncers in most places across the world, is that on many occasions they take the power that comes with their momentary position of authority way too far.

Such was exemplified to me this week, on a casual Monday evening in Jimmy Allen’s: an occurrence concerning some of my closest friends. One friend (Student A) felt it necessary to ‘dump-tackle’ another friend (Student B) on the middle of the dance floor. “I was just joking around,” says culprit, student A, “it was a sign of affection”, a form of greeting in the drunken male world perhaps. Within a split second, the nearby bouncer had dramatically dived through the crowd of innocent dancers to reach Student A; he then proceeded to grab his neck, pulling him all the way out of the club and onto the streets without loosening his strangling grip. When fellow friends tried to intervene and help Student A, who was struggling for breath, they were grabbed and thrown out by other bouncers arriving at the commotion. All involved were banned from the club, not even being allowed to retrieve their jackets from inside.

“I know I was in the wrong, but the whole thing seemed to me a bit excessive” continues Student A, “I couldn’t breathe the entire time, so this meant I couldn’t even tell him that I couldn’t breathe. I tried to loosen his grip, but this just worsened his aggression. I would have happily have just walked out of the club, I am quite a relaxed, passive guy and would never start an actual fight on a night out. Anyone with any sense can see the clear difference between a friendly scuffle and an actual fight.”

For myself and other friends especially, it is horrible to see a friend undergo such brutality, and we were helpless to do anything due to other bouncers doing the same wrong to anyone who tried to help. It is not a nice memory of a night out, but one that we will almost always associate with that venue.

Reflecting on this made me wonder what the official job description of a bouncer actually is, and what I found is proof that this event shouldn’t have been carried out as violently as it was. Snagajob outline that a bouncer must be able to “keep a cool head in stressful situations”. No bouncer’s head was kept ‘cool’ at Jimmy Allen’s on Monday, that’s for sure; they had more abuse to shout than the drunken students themselves. Interestingly, Crimedoctor believe that “employing overly aggressive bouncers and doormen with little training and inadequate procedures can contribute to the death of a night club”, however with limited clubs in Durham, bouncers take advantage of the fact that banning a student from their club leaves them with little future possibilities for a good night out.

Understandably, Durham bouncers are currently under a lot of pressure due to recent troubles and press concerns towards the vulnerability of inebriated students being in proximity to the River Wear. Nevertheless, is denying entry to a vulnerable, drunk student the right thing to do? Leaving them on the streets when their friends have been allowed in is surely more dangerous than letting them dance off their drunkenness in the safe proximity of their pals.

Overall, students must remember and respect that the responsibility of a bouncer is to maintain order. Although I do believe that some actions they have taken previously are unnecessary (even if in most cases, the student is drunk and therefore will exaggerate the injustice of their handling).

For a successful, drama-free night out, it is a good idea to avoid bouncers (along with starting fights, and arriving to clubs too drunk to stand up) so as not to aggravate them. This way they can be left to do their job and we can freely enjoy Durham clubs in all their glory.

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