Dear Durham Bouncers: An Open Letter

Dear Durham Bouncers,

The majority of the bouncers and security teams outside Durham’s clubs do a commendable job. They put up with rowdy socials, drunken students throwing up and break up fights, endangering their own safety for the sake of ours. They have to make decisions quickly and cannot be seen to back down and show leniency to anyone. That’s their job. However, a quick google search or a conversation with almost any club-goer will be able to reveal a story that is less than comforting. Bouncers throwing students on the floor, being kicked out or refused entry despite being completely sober. What is especially shocking is how often these acts seem to be racially motivated.

The comment section on Klute’s Facebook page is filled with reviews such as ‘rude bouncers’ and more explicitly ‘I do NOT recommend anyone of color come here.’ Lloyds has the most overwhelming comment section with almost every other comment reporting an incident in which the doors staff ‘shoved’ a person to the ground or were ‘nothing but rude.’ Last year international ID was not accepted in Lloyds, creating a hostile environment in which many international students did not feel welcome, not wanting to risk losing their passports.

With only anecdotal evidence, it would be wrong to make any serious accusations against any specific member of security. However, it would also be wrong to ignore the numerous incidents resulting in many students avoiding clubs because of the treatment they receive. This term alone I have witnessed two of my friends being removed from clubs on separate occasions, both sober and both people of colour. Upon questioning the bouncers, they refused to justify why they had been removed and maintained that they could not return into the club. In the latter incident, a bouncer prevented entry for no explicit reason. Only when questioned by his fellow bouncers and management did he allow her entry to the club.

Recent Facebook reviews of Durhams top students club’s highlighting mistreatment. Featured Image sourced from Facebook.

Not every incident is racially charged and the power of bouncers to remove people should be respected. However, these incidents occur too many times to be considered a ‘coincidence’ or merely ‘unlucky’. Reports need to increase, but it is understandable why official reports are rare. The majority of individual incidents are difficult to report as it is easy to dismiss one occasion. The morning after you are likely to be filled with doubt and often embarrassment that your night was forced to end early. Despite this lack of substantive evidence, I do not doubt that these incidents occur more frequently than we would like to admit.

What are you supposed to say when your friend asks ‘Why me? Why did he kick me out, but let people who were so drunk they couldn’t walk straight back in?’ The answer should not be a helpless apology and an awkward promise not to return. Simply avoiding a club is not enough anymore. The issue is not going away.  It is not enough to simply tell our friends which clubs to avoid and which bouncers to avoid. Management needs to take responsibility and hold their staff accountable. Each person removed, and especially each person forcibly removed should be accounted for and justified. Legally, bouncers are not allowed to use any more force than the ordinary person. This means that they are only able to use force if they are attacked in self-defence. Anything else is battery and should be reported. As students, it is our responsibility to start reporting incidents; the time, place, pictures or videos if possible. 

We cannot ignore this situation anymore. We cannot label these incidents as one-off coincidences when they happen more than they should. Clubs should be a place of enjoyment, not of fear and harassment.

Featured Image by Xxinvictus34535. Available on Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

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