bouncers security persons in club
Bouncers have a pretty rough deal – everyone loves to hate them  | © iSOMBOON / Shutterstock

In the wake of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK club industry found itself with an unexpected problem: there was a huge shortage of bouncers in the country.

And by huge, we mean huge. Or ‘catastrophic’ at the very least – as the Night Time Industries Association CEO put it

The issue of some doormen not having the UK National status they needed to work post-Brexit combined with a year of closures forcing many to find work in other industries meant one thing for the UK club scene, and it wasn’t good.

Security staff were in short supply, threatening the possibility of clubs reopening safely.. 

Add to that the additional training requirements and increased public safety risks introduced into security work as of 2021, and it isn’t hard to see how an already tough job was starting to seem nigh on impossible. 

But not every bouncer is so down on the profession. Although they put up with difficult customers on the job and difficult work regulations outside of it, many security personnel see their career as worth the challenges it poses. 

Soundclub Mag caught up with one such bouncer to get his insights on the ups and downs of the profession that drunken brawlers love to hate.

‘People approach me years later thanking me for saving their lives’

a bouncer
Spike Richardson, our interviewee | © Spike Richardson (ONTHEDOORS13 on Instagram and Facebook)

SOUNDCLUB MAG: Hi Spike, it’s great to meet you. Why don’t we start with you telling us a bit about yourself – stuff like your job title, age, and how long you’ve worked in the profession?

SPIKE: I’m 36, my job titles are ‘Door Supervisor’ and ‘Court Security Officer’, and I’ve been working in this career for nine long years. 

SPIKE: Unfortunately, I moved to a new area and was unable to find work, so I decided to retrain after spotting a lot of security related jobs in papers at the job centre and online (Indeed).

SOUNDCLUB MAG: So what motivated you to stay in the job?

SPIKE: Well, after nine years, I know I have a good reputation and am well-known and highly-recommended. That’s something that is very important in this industry – people are recommended by word of mouth.

Aside from that, the job itself can be highly rewarding too. I’ve had people approach me years later thanking me for saving their lives; stopping them from being brutally assaulted, raped, or spiked; and for calling them a taxi so they could get home safely. 

 ‘There are some nights I worry I won’t return home to my wife and kids’

SOUNDCLUB MAG: Wow, that’s amazing. I suppose it’s important to put the time in to establish yourself in the industry, as you say. Was it hard to get to this point, considering the challenges you must have faced in the job along the way?

SPIKE: The biggest challenge is trying not to lose yourself in the moment. Customers are extremely dangerous, and even when faced with an armed culprit, you still have to worry about the SIA revoking your licence for anything excessive over reasonable force. 

But when you act in fear for your and your colleague’s lives, what do you think is justified as reasonable? It’s not easy – the job can be hard sometimes. There are some nights when I worry I won’t return home to my wife and kids.

SOUNDCLUB MAG: I’m so sorry to hear that, that sounds really difficult. What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out in the industry to prepare them for how tough it can be? 

SPIKE: Training does not prepare you for the job, experience is gained once in the industry. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into!

bouncer on the door
Spike has a Youtube channel, Doorman Diaries, with 2.35k subscribers | © Spike Richardson (ONTHEDOORS13 on Instagram and Facebook)

In a world where the attacker is valued over the door supervisor; where we have no right to self defense without being arrested, criticized, or having our badge revoked because we defended ourselves; where we have no power; make sure this job is right for you. There’s no shame in walking away, it’s not for everyone. 

‘Door supervisors are not your enemy, we are there to keep you safe’

SOUNDCLUB MAG: I can imagine that some newbies must be really shocked by just how intense the job is. What about the general public – are there any misconceptions they commonly have about the profession, do you think?

SPIKE: Absolutely. People believe we are the bouncers of the past, where we will take you round the corner and give you a hiding. That reputation still remains, but the job is far from that. 

The most important thing is our duty of care to those in the establishment where we are working. That means protecting people from harm; preventing further injury; first-response in an emergency such as first aid, CPR, calling an ambulance or police; doing everything you can to sustain life basically. 

SOUNDCLUB MAG: What would you say to those people who have an outdated understanding of what bouncers really do?

SPIKE: Door supervisors are not your enemy, we are there to help keep you safe. However, when threatened, like any citizen we are allowed to self-defend and place you under citizen’s arrest. We are here to do a job, after all.

Security guards often work long hours day and night for little pay. They deal with verbal or physical abuse from intoxicated or aggressive individuals; have to have the courage to control dangerous situations; spend long hours away from their families so that they can protect you and your loved ones while you enjoy your show or concert. They deserve respect.

‘We get covered in blood, vomit, and urine regularly’

SOUNDCLUB MAG:  Absolutely. It’s sad that the job is so stigmatised and on the receiving end of so much disrespect and aggression, isn’t it?

SPIKE: For sure. And girls and guys are as bad as each other in that – constantly fighting, naughty shenanigans on the dance floor involving full nudity, the lot.

men in club fully drunk
When alcohol and/or drugs are involved, it only takes a split second for things to turn nasty. Unfortunately, doormen get the brunt of that | © Arthur Podzolkin / Unsplash

Often, when you’re preventing someone from being sexually or physically assaulted, you can end up taking a punch in the firing line for someone else, too. And we get covered in blood, vomit, and urine regularly – we even have bricks or eggs thrown at us just for being a door supervisor. 

SOUNDCLUB MAG: That sounds like a hell of a lot to deal with. What’s the worst thing you’ve been confronted with on a night at work, if you’re okay sharing?

SPIKE: I’ve got a lot of stories, a whole video of them. Take your pick.

[The transcript from one of the stories on the video is as follows:]

I’ve had it before [where] we’re standing on the front door, you kick everyone out [of] the venue and a fight escalates between one group and [a] random person comes along and joins in and then all of a sudden, someone random shouts: “he’s got a knife!”

 

And someone’s coming down the street with a knife in their hand [and you’re there] not knowing who they’re intending it for, not knowing what’s gonna happen… And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, four or five more people turn up with either knives or knuckle dusters, things they shouldn’t be having on them in the street and it makes you think, [for] a split second, that could have gone into you or it could have gone around your head [or] face.” 

Doorman Diaries – INTERVIEW WITH A DOORMAN | © Doorman Diaries / YouTube

SOUNDCLUB MAG It sounds like your job can be incredibly traumatic. Is the pay good, considering the huge personal cost?

SPIKE: The pay hasn’t changed in twenty years (from what the doormen of the past have informed me). In the nighttime economy, it’s roughly £10 per hour, at the best £12 per hour since Covid hit and now there’s a shortage of door staff. 

Daytime economy ranges from £9.02 an hour to £11 per hour. But when you think you’re putting your life on the line for this, I could go stack shelves in Asda for £9.50 an hour and be guaranteed a safe return home to my family at the end of the shift, you know?

SOUNDCLUB MAG: For sure. 

SPIKE: But I suppose the flexibility of being self-employed is good, although obviously you lose out on money by doing that. If you’re living on the breadline then you take all the shifts you can get – my daytime job alone accounts for 45 hours a week without overtime. 

‘A lifestyle of eating late or not at all and smoking like a trooper’

SOUNDCLUB MAG: And with overtime, say? What does your average week look like?

SPIKE: An average week for me consists of back-to-back shifts, consistent of a minimum of 66 hours a week, and longer for special events, holiday periods such as Christmas, and football season where people are guaranteed to fight over absolutely nothing but drunken rage and supporting an opposing team. 

It’s a lifestyle of eating late or not at all and smoking like a trooper while drinking a stupid amount of energy drink to keep you on your toes throughout your shift. 

SOPHIE: A gruelling lifestyle – if you could sum it up in less than five words?

SPIKE: Repetitive and customer-focused. That’s what I’d say. 

raise a glass for bouncers
Next time you’re out, raise a glass for the bouncers, they don’t have it easy | © Efren Barahona / Unsplash