The black velvet ropes click open and shut, open and shut – gateway to the dancing, drinking and flirting inside the Mix Downtown.
On one side of the ropes are those dressed to party. They are waiting in a queue stretching around L Street and up 16th at 11 p.m. Wednesday. On the other side are the groomed, buttoned-down and tie-accented “door hosts” of the upscale Sacramento venue.
Bouncers, once stereotyped for their Goliath-like size, inability to mince words and iron-like headlocks, are no more.
Instead, they have earned titles like door steward, door supervisor or maitre d’, and stress smiles over biceps.
Still, they are charged with overseeing alcohol-fueled crowds that can turn violent in an instant. A bouncer at Q Street Bar & Grill, 32-year-old David Rasul, was stabbed last weekend trying to break up a fight that ended with a 23-year-old man dead. Two men were arrested, but one – Andre Huerta, 31 – was released after police determined he was not the one with the knife. His brother-in-law Jonathan Montejano, 26, remains in custody.
In September, bouncer Leroy Fisher, 64, was run over in the parking lot outside midtown nightclub Badlands – allegedly for forcing two patrons to leave for unruly behavior.
“Within the realm of security, working as a bouncer at a bar or nightclub is on the more dangerous side of the scale because you have patrons who are consuming alcohol,” said Jeff Flint, executive director of the California Association of Licensed Security Agencies, Guards and Associates, “That is a volatile mix.”
To avert violence as well as fend off possible lawsuits from manhandled customers, many bars and clubs have taken an approach that stresses polite and firm over beef and brawn.
“Ten or 11 years ago, if somebody was putting your customers in danger, it wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary to get him in a headlock and remove him like that,” said Justin Llorente, who has worked as a bouncer at Sacramento-area clubs for the past 11 years.
“Now, unless your life is in danger or you’re being physically threatened, you don’t throw a punch.”
Kendall Pierce runs security at the Golden Bear at 24th and K streets. Originally a chef, Pierce decided he liked the personal interaction of bouncing better. And that interaction is what keeps the bar devoid of major incidents, he said.
“I kill them with kindness,” he said. “If I get into a situation and everyone around me is a friend, it’s hard to lose.”
Pierce puts every bouncer he hires through a trial period that could last up to three months and keeps tabs of how much most clients have had to drink through staff who pick up empty glasses and bottles.
“He tries to be a really welcoming guy who happens to be enormous, and that has worked very well for us through the years,” said the bar’s co-owner Kimio Bazett.
At Shady Lady on R and 14th streets, door staff are called maitre d’s and hired by co-owner Garrett Van Vleck, who started his career manning doors at the Monkey Bar, R15 and Elixir.
“When it comes down to it, being a bouncer is really about customer service, being able to talk to someone and defuse situations before they become situations,” Van Vleck” said.
Back at the Mix, the “door hosts,” who all are wired with earpieces, are viewed as greeters, not muscle, said general manager Rob Macias.
It’s easier to ask someone who’s had too much to drink to come back tomorrow if they’ve already been greeted with a smile and have a rapport with staff, he said.
There are about 15 hosts working at any time – six at the door, several manning spots throughout the club and a few picking up glasses, cleaning up spills and keeping track of customers, Macias said.
All are trained in-house and are backed up by two Sacramento police officers who are hired by the club.
“Being 250 and 6-2 is not necessarily a prerequisite now,” said owner Mason Wong, “They need to know how to communicate – that is the No. 1 prerequisite.”
THE CLUB SCENENew rules went into effect this year requiring training and registration for bouncers, said Connie Trujillo,deputy chief of the state’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.
Bouncers must undergo 16 hours of training and criminal background checks to earn cards authorizing them to be Proprietary Private Security Officers.
Starting in 2011, bars that hire bouncers must also register with the state, Trujillo said.
Jeff Flint, executive director of the California Association of Licensed Security Agencies, Guards and Associates – which pushed for the new rules – estimates there are close to 150,000 bouncers who work for bars, clubs, hotels and other businesses; only 5,500 are registered with the state, according to Trujillo.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership is hosting free security training for managers at Sacramento’s pubs, clubs and bars along with the Sacramento Police Department from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret, 1000 K Street ,Sacramento
For more information, contact Ryan Loofbourow,(916) 442-8575.
By Gina Kim/Sacramento Bee