Nightclubs are their own, bizarre little worlds, I assume. I have absolutely no way to confirm this firsthand because I could never get into one on account of being a fat white man with the fashion sense of an even drunker Johnny Depp. That’s why I instead talked to Gary and Adam who’ve worked in the club business for years. This is what I’ve learned from them:
4. Most Nightclubs Have Their Own Designated Drug Dealer
If nightclubs had their own GoT-esque house words, they’d be either “Fuck epileptics” or “You can buy/do drugs in here.” Drug use is actually so common at nightclubs that by now most places have decided to just embrace it. Gary, who used to own a nightclub in California, explains:
“My business partners and I reached the conclusion that every bar is going to have a coke dealer so it might as well be a dealer you like.”
How, though? Did they… post a Craigslist ad and conducted the most candid interview in history? Well, at Gary’s club, the guy who worked the door was also a drug dealer, which Gary decided he was going to be cool with because the dealer was very discreet and professional (all of his baggies had inspirational business quotes on them.)
“It was something that was in the background and was never expressly stated between us. He was very subtle and respectful of the bar and club. I never saw a transaction, and he never looked like a drug dealer. He’s a nice guy. He very, very rarely drank and never smoked pot or did drugs. He now owns a MMA gym.”
That last part isn’t a coincidence because once you decide your calling is to hit people professionally, you’ll never go back. Also, according to Adam, a club bartender, “dealers at bars act like unofficial security/cops. One time a dealer dragged a guy making trouble out in the street, beat the shit out of him and threw him over the fence. Oddly enough no one saw anything and the bar cameras were strangely on the blink (i.e. not recording) when this happened.”
The police never investigated the case because cops apparently don’t mind vigilantes keeping the peace and sparing them a little work, proving that a real-life Batman could totally happen. Speaking of cops…
3. Many Clubs Also Have Their Own Resident Cop
You know how you start driving like an old lady heading to church with a vial of nitroglycerine between your legs whenever you see a cop on the road? A similar thing happens in nightclubs. If there is a badge at the bar, people are suddenly more likely to act nice and think “Well, maybe that guy DID bump into me by accident. Guess I won’t carve my initials into his spleen.”
It’s why clubs will outright pay a cop to hang out at their place and scare everyone into not acting like dicks. Adam explains:
“If you have a cop who is friendly or (better yet) paid to sit around and keep things calm, treat them like royalty. All the free drinks and food (also pay if legal) are worth the investment. It’s really not expensive, though, as officers can’t legally consume alcohol while they’re armed and/or in uniform. As for the food cost, I’ve never had one order more than one item/dish in any given night. I’ve found many don’t order any food at all a lot of the time as they’re too busy watching for trouble and/or monitoring their radios.”
There are many ways for clubs to find their own house-cop: word-of-mouth, personal acquaintances, literally stopping a random police officer on the street and asking if he wants to look at pretty ladies and get free food all day.
To be fair, though, your resident cop also needs to be someone with an appreciation for the grayer aspects of reality, which is to say “he needs to be really cool about the drug dealers.”
“I did have a frank conversation with one of my favorite guys one night about this,” Adam told me. “I asked him ‘I know what goes on here, and I know YOU know what goes on here, so how do you sort that out?’ He replied, ‘Yeah we all know, and if this were on my beat or in my neighborhood they’d be busted hard and fast. This [gig] is just for extra cash and to keep the peace, though. If everyone plays nice I’m not going to start anything.’”
2. It Pays To Be Constantly Paranoid Because The Liquor Board Is Sneaky
Prohibition might have ended but that doesn’t mean anyone is free to serve alcohol to whomever they want. It’s why my idea for a Drunk Bear Wrestling League was so poorly received. In any case, alcohol sales in the U.S. are controlled by state liquor boards that grant booze-peddling permits to bars, taverns, and nightclubs… and also occasionally spy on them.
“It’s a good idea to have a no drinking/drugs policy in writing for employees to cover your ass,” Adam explains, “and make sure that they never drink in front of unknown patrons who might really be undercover inspectors. The liquor board is sneaky like that … Also, almost all legal jurisdictions forbid serving patrons that are already intoxicated.”
“Of course if this were actually enforced no neighborhood bar would make money, so most clubs only cut off new patrons. Again, the liquor board is sneaky.”
It’s not just arbitrary bureaucracy. Cutting people off right at the border of hugging everyone and hugging the pavement lessens the chances of them drunkenly plowing into an orphan choir on their way back home. You’d probably want to avoid that, and not just because there’s a chance one of those orphans is an undercover liquor agent. They’re sneaky like that.
“I swear these people are almost gleeful when they ‘catch’ you,” Adam adds. “One tactic they use is sending in underage operatives who try to get a drink without showing ID … Probably the most devious thing they do with the fake ID test is to use fake IDs from far-away states. I live on the East Coast and honestly could not spot a fake ID from Wyoming offhand, especially during happy hour and/or right before closing. The liquor board is sneaky like that.”
And if they do catch the bartender serving beer to a minor, it’s a $5,000 fine, which usually results in the bartender or his manager getting fired. That’s why most nightclub employees are so paranoid that they’d ask their own grandmother for ID before serving her. There’s always a chance that she’s actually an inspector in disguise. The liquor board is sneaky like that.
1. Small, Coolheaded Doormen Are Essential
Going by the popular image of huge, musclehead club bouncers, you’d think that the only requirements for the job are being part ox and speaking a variant of Sign Language where you only communicate with your fists. But Gary explains that these are not the guys you want keeping the peace at a nightclub.
What you really want are Jedi Masters.
“Fights are a very serious liability. One of my old doormen taught me that words are free but fists can get really expensive. Stupid muscleheads are too quick to resort to physicality because they can.” It’s like that old saying: if all you have are giant fists, all you see are assholes begging to get pounded. That’s a saying, right?
Gary continues: “The last thing you want is drawing police attention to your establishment. Give me an older guy or an overweight diabetic who can use their ninja word skills to get someone out the front door without incident. Some of my guys would give money back for unfinished drinks, give door passes for next time they come, or free drink tickets – the troublemakers usually walked away feeling like they’d won something. You want a Jedi mind trick door guy not some knucklehead brute with their brains in their fists.”
In short, you want less a fighter like Patrick Swayze in Road House, and more a manipulator like Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. OK, bad example, because The Warthog would tear you limb from limb if you even looked at him funny.