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Let’s bounce: The dangers bar employees face

Sabrina Salvatore

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While a night at the Chico bar scene may be intended as a night to unwind, bouncers gear up for a work shift that may involve dangerous circumstances.

Keith Chapman, security manager at The Crazy Horse Saloon, is confronted with a multitude of negative reactions on a nightly basis from people trying to get into the saloon.

Keith Chapman, security manager at The Crazy Horse Saloon, deals with negative reactions from bar-goers who are intoxicated.

“I constantly battle with people that get their liquid courage and decide the rules don’t apply to them, and have no respect for the business they’re visiting,” Chapman said.

He also said that on a fairly regular basis they get threats from people wanting to kill them, as well as getting physically violent toward them.

Chico has long-standing reputation for being a party town. Many students frequent the bars as a way to loosen up and enjoy themselves.

Sean Bradford, bouncer at Joe’s Bar, said going out to a bar is about grabbing a few beers with friends and enjoying one another’s company.

Sean Bradford, bouncer at Joe’s Bar, believes that people need to offer more respect to bars when going out.

However, bouncers often get a bad reputation associated with their title. Chapman said a lot of the negative association comes from some people trying to tell him how to do his job, even though one of his main priorities is to treat everyone equally and fairly.

Not only do bouncers have their duties as security guards to uphold, they have to deal with the backlash from overly intoxicated people that think security are “the bad guys” stopping them from having a good time.

Justin Lee, former bouncer at Lost on Main and Down Lo, has personally dealt with this negativity.

Justin Lee, former bouncer at Lost on Main and The Down Lo, was physically assaulted during a shift when someone head-butted him.

“One guy head-butted me out of nowhere really hard,” Lee said. “I was the only bouncer on the scene and the bartender had to pull him off of me. I was dazed but managed to take his friend down, and at that point pretty much everyone in the bar was calling the cops.”

Situations that bouncers are confronted with can escalate fast and become dangerous quickly. Alteric Clark, former bouncer at La Salles, witnessed a guy getting shot firsthand during one of his shifts.

Alteric Clark, former bouncer at La Salles, witnessed someone who was shot but survived on one of his shifts.

“He got shot six times but still survived,” Clark said. “He was a friend of the bar and always there. The guy that did the shooting got caught outside and I got an award from the city and was on the news for helping catch him.”

Another night he was working, a group of 25 gang members picked a fight with the four bouncers on duty. It lasted about ten minutes until the cops showed up to help break up the fight, Clark said.

Christopher Kokoll, also a former bouncer at La Salles, wasn’t prepared for the violence associated with the job.

“Working at a bar was my first job when I moved to Chico,” Kokoll said. “They told me there had been a shooting and stabbings there and I’m from Maine, I’ve never dealt with something like that before.”

Kokoll said the bouncers at La Salles use different codes to communicate to one another about potentially dangerous situations:

  • Code green means someone needs to be given a warning.
  • Code orange means there’s a fight about to start.
  • Code red means there’s a fight happening. One bouncer watches the door while the rest break it up.

Bouncers encounter different situations from unpleasant and mildly annoying to violent.

Bradford said some people who enter the bar lack respect for the business.

“I walked in the male restroom, both stalls were full and I caught this guy peeing in the sink,” Bradford said. “I wish people would respect bars as if they were their own homes. We’ve not only dealt with that, but people trying to sneak in the back door.”

Bouncers attempt to avoid violent occurrences as much as possible, but sometimes need reinforcement from outside sources.

The Chico Police Department said the busiest time of the year for bar-related calls are when students return to town prior to the start of a new semester. Labor Day weekend, Halloween weekend and Saint Patrick’s Day are other specific times of the year when there are many calls. Generally during the summer things calm down, but from past experience, bouncers prepare for returning students.

“A majority of what we as bouncers face is breaking up fights, avoiding people trying to pick fights with us and dealing with overly drunk people throwing up on themselves,” Lee said.

Sabrina Salvatore can be reached at [email protected] or @ssalvatore09 on Twitter.

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Let’s bounce: The dangers bar employees face