Monday, October 20, 2008

Can I Throw You Out?

In a word - yes.

What authority do I - or did I, rather, since I no longer work downtown - have as a "bouncer" working in a bar? Can I put my hands on someone? Can I beat them up? Is it legal? Can I be sued?

Great questions that I've always gotten emails to that maybe I haven't exactly answered. I probably won't really answer it now, but I'll try to as best as I can.

There's a giant grey area when it comes to the bars...the Athens ones, at least. Those are the only ones I have had any experience in. Officially, I don't have a whole lot more authority than your average joe drinking jager bombs at the end of the bar. For the most part, I represent a private business and can refuse entry to any one that I want to as long as it's not because of any protected class. Namely, race, religion, sex, etc. etc.

As an agent of the private business, I can ask anyone to leave the premises for any reason. If you refuse, then I can call the cops and have you arrested for criminal trespass, or have the police issue you a trespass warning and bar you from the premises for 2 years. Been there and done it many times.

Then there's the grey area.

When can I throw somebody out by force? Well...again, as an agent of this private business, we're obligated to provide our customers reasonable protection against violence. This is primarily why we're employeed. If me and my six coworkers weren't walking around making sure nobody was killing anyone else, then it might happen. And then the person who got killed or badly hurt can sue us for negligence since the bar didn't provide adequeate security.

This is also why we can physically drag you out of the front door and throw you on the ground.

Most bouncers don't just hop on somebody who won't leave and manhandle them out of the door. Usually the customer has to make the first move against us or another customer. That's when we step in and do what we're paid to do.

If the police get involved, it's usually at the end of the entire performance, when we've made our way outside to deposit the drunken 19 year old in the gutter, per our policy. Occasionally they help us and take over from there, since the sidewalk and street aren't our property. Customers usually end up in handcuffs or pepper sprayed and given a nice place to stay for the night.

If they complain to the cops that we "beat them up" or started everything, usually the cops dismiss their claims and do nothing about it. This is good, because that's what they should do. Police officers have a little problem believing the drunk underaged college kid over the sober door guy. So do I, for that matter.

Most of the time its pretty cut and dried when it comes to taking someone out the front door. Occasionally, there will be the kid who resists leaving passively - meaning he says he won't leave and then just stands there. This particular kid usually ends up getting a lot more wiggle room than the one who immediately starts swinging, understandably. But in the end if he doesn't walk out under his own power, then he'll be leaving because of us whether he wants to or not.

Lawsuits? They happen occasionally. I've seen door guys arrested because of excessive force. But it happens so rarely because you're usually too drunk to realize that you're the cause of the entire problem.

So can I throw you out? Yes. Even if you don't want me to. And there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it.


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