On Main Street last Friday night, a group of hulking men stood outside a bar. Their muscles bulged and their breath hung visibly in the cold air as they surveyed the scene: a long line of people against the building's side, most of them students with hopeful looks in their glassy, inebriated eyes.
Suddenly, there was a commotion. One of the huge men took a college student by the arm and dragged him away from the bar. As the rejected boy walked away, he rambled to himself angrily, and finally called out loud as he retreated: "these bouncers are f***ing dicks!"
WhileBouncers are notorious for their bad attitudes and oversized muscles, the Buffalo nightlife looks different through their eyes. Though they may seem like "spoilsports," standing silently and glaring at drunken college kids who are trying to enjoy themselves, they actually like to have fun, too, and many of them took the job in order to do just that. There is a side to these men that students do not often have a chance to see, and their stories and inside information provide a new perspective on the "guards of the bars."
The angry castaway student is not alone in his sentiment that the bouncers are not the sweetest guys around.
"One time, I saw a kid get knocked out [by a bouncer] that wasn't even doing anything, and just dragged out of the line at Northside," said Adam Wachler, a senior finance major. "It was really f***ed up, and way too much to do to a kid who wasn't even inside of the bar."
There are exceptions, however – not all bouncers are out to bring misery and frustration to the kids who go out. One of the biggest issues that causes people to think otherwise is IDs. Some bars, like Mojos, even require patrons to produce their college IDs before they can enter the bar, in addition to their legal IDs.
Patrick Eck, a junior legal studies major at UB, works as a bouncer at Mojos every Friday and Saturday night. He said the bouncers don't enforce these rules just to be annoying.
"We're not here to be dicks or hurt anyone's feelings or ruin anyone's night," Eck said. "At the same time, we have to be able to protect ourselves. Because of the neighborhood, we get a lot of people that would like to come in and cause problems, so we try to use the college ID policy just so we keep the college kids in here and keep it a fun place to be."
While Eck insists that he and his fellow bouncers have no bad intentions, sometimes the bar gets out of hand. In such situations, it's his job to keep things from escalating out of control and to diffuse the scene as quickly as possible. Of course, when talking doesn't help, sometimes the bouncers are forced to rely on their muscle.
"Week before last, a kid got thrown out and he was talking s**t, and then he made a bad comment about the owner…he got in [another bouncer's] face," Eck said. "[The bouncer] told the kid to walk, the cops told him to walk, but he didn't…and then he started throwing punches, and [the other bouncer] put him down on the ground – his face was bleeding and gushing."
Though the big, bloody altercations don't occur that often, the bouncers are always prepared for bizarre situations.
A bouncer at The Steer, who didn't want his name published, recalled the night last year when UB football player Scott Pettigrew was stabbed. Though it happened outside of Northside, this bouncer ended up playing a larger role in the situation than he expected.
"The kid who stabbed him came in here…they told us there was a kid in the bathroom wiping off blood everywhere, and then he tossed a knife out of his pocket," the bouncer said. "We caught him and brought him outside to the cops. That was pretty much the craziest thing I've been a part of."
Though it's usually the dramatic nights that stand out in the bouncers' heads, the best nights are the ones where they get to see their friends. Their job allows for them to see the friends they already have, and also introduces them to new people on a nightly basis.
Rasheed James, a bouncer at Northside, attributes his love for the job to the friendships he has made over the six years he has worked there. He refers to the kids he sees frequently as his family and dismisses any rowdy behavior by comparing it to the family squabbles everyone encounters. He is extremely popular among the bar's patrons, who greet him affectionately and can often be seen taking pictures with him or casually chatting with him throughout the night.
"Honestly, it's like, from freshman year to their senior year, you get close to them, and then you get to know what type of individuals they are," James said. "I went to a sorority house one night and I walked in the house and they all knew me, and being able to sit with them and hang out with them was one of my best memories."
Regardless of which bar they work at, it seems that the bouncers all have the same wishes for the people who frequent their establishments: to enter and have fun. The bar owners and bouncers are all aware that the crowd is college-aged, and therefore bars like Mojos and Northside are more lenient. According to their bouncers, there really is no reason for the problems that students face when trying to use fake IDs, since the bars are open to people 18 years and older, even though patrons obviously must be 21 to drink.
"We say just keep it real with us and we'll keep it real with you," James said. "We love all of the students, and all we want everyone to do is to bring the proper ID. Let's have fun. We're only here for a certain amount of time, so let's enjoy the time that we have."