North Texas Daily

How your fun weekend on Fry Street affects the bouncers and bartenders

How your fun weekend on Fry Street affects the bouncers and bartenders

September 01
09:27 2016

Posted on the frontlines of Fry Street, a bouncer in a black “STAFF” t-shirt and iconic backwards fitted baseball cap breathes in the humid soup of cigarettes, whiskey breath and sweet perfume as Wednesday night boils into the hot-mess of Thirsty Thursday morning.

Mac, who asked for his last name not to be included, said working security six nights a week at Public House over the past 18 months has left him jaded by the grind, the drunks, the tired routine and the drama that makes it interesting.

But worst of all, he said, was losing faith in people.

“I don’t really give a flying shit,” Mac said. “I’ve been called every damn name under the sun. Been punched, kicked, spit on. It’s not exactly a position to make friends.”

But Mac’s experience is the exception, not the rule. Each bar on Fry has it’s own culture that legislates everything from their drink specials to bar security.

Bouncers at Lucky Lou’s, Rip Rocks, the Garage, the Library, the Tavern and Tom’s Daiquiri all said they very rarely, if ever, have confrontational customers who resort to violence against the staff.

“The guys from Public House, they get in fights every two weeks,” Tom’s Daiquiri  bartender Drew Kee said. “It gets bad over there. They’re the real MVPs.”

Kee, who’s worked on both sides of the bar, said physicality is overrated for the job, and what separates good bouncers from the pack is patience.  According to Kee, “killing people with kindness” works more often than the alternative.

The bouncers at Public House try playing nice, but Mac hasn’t seen it be very effective. He said you have to be either physically or verbally assertive, and for Mac, sometimes you have to be both.

“If you’re a drunk asshole, you’re a drunk asshole,” Mac said. “I just tell ‘em, ‘hey you’re drunk, asshole, you need to leave.’ If they get violent, I get to have fun.”

The only time Mac gets to “have fun” is to defend himself from attacking customers. But he isn’t allowed to punch, kick, tackle or put customers in a chokehold. Instead he is only allowed to “restrain” customers, not explaining what that involves. He said the key to bouncing is staying productive until something “pops off.”

Mac said the reason there are more fights at Public House was due to the amount of people they house. There’s more people, so the odds increase.

But if possible, he avoids putting his hands on customers because bars sell themselves most effectively with word-of-mouth marketing and return customers.

A bartender at Rip Rock's fixes drinks. | Paulina De Alva

A bartender at Rip Rock’s fixes drinks. | Paulina De Alva

A dress code and angry customers

Denton residents Anita Narbaez, 23, and Cory Dowe, 26, said the bouncers at Public House treated them unfairly because they were black. Narbaez said it was her first and worst negative experience with a bouncer.

Narbaez’s boyfriend, who declined to comment, started the initial conversation with Mac.

“Hey, is there a charge to get in?” Narbaez’s boyfriend asked.

“Yeah, $200,000,” Mac sarcastically replied.

“Ahhh, you being serious?” Narbaez’s boyfriend questioned.

“Who the fuck walks around here with 200,000,” Mac said, laughing.

Narbaez proceeded to say they had friends inside, prompting Mac to ask what their friends looked like.

No one answered.

After a few moments, Mac said the blank white t-shirts they were wearing was against the bar’s dress code. Mac said if they had another shirt to wear, they’d be welcome to come inside.

Narbaez then walked to the window to confirm what she already knew.

“What about all this people in blank shirts right there? And there? And there?” she said.

“Where?” Mac said, walking to look at the window.

“Right there, the white boy in the blue shirt playing pool!” Narbaez said.

After seeing the shirts first hand, Mac said, “You called me on my bullshit, so I got to [let y’all in] now.”

Though Narbaez said she was angry, she decided to not let the bouncer waste anymore of her time and energy. She said she couldn’t know for sure why he didn’t stop the others for being in violation, but she did notice that more than three of the blank shirts she saw in the window were worn by white men.

“There’s no way in hell that they didn’t see all these people in those shirts,” Narbaez said. “It was the first thing I noticed.”

Mac said it’s common for people to take dress code violations personally, but he said color doesn’t factor into his decision.

“Normally [people think] it’s a race thing. They said, ‘oh, it’s because I’m black, it’s ‘cause I’m Mexican,’” Mac said. “Which is complete horseshit, I don’t give a fuck what color you are. If you look clean we’ll let you in. If you don’t look clean, we won’t.”

Every Thursday night students who attend First Baptist Church of Denton hand out water bottles on Fry Street from midnight to 3 a.m. The students normally give out 400 water bottles in those 3 hours each week. | Whitney Rogers

Every Thursday night students who attend First Baptist Church of Denton hand out water bottles on Fry Street from midnight to 3 a.m. The students normally give out 400 water bottles in those 3 hours each week. | Whitney Rogers

Working hard

Chris Bloomquist has worked at Library Bar as a bouncer since it opened in February. He said bouncers can be victims of prejudice, too. He goes out of his way to show people he’s not just another bully in a “black t-shirt.”

“I don’t want to compare bouncers to officers, but just like an officer, we’re a person in a t-shirt,” Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist,  a interdisciplinary arts junior, tries to connect with customers on a personal level, laughing and dancing outside to lure more customers. He said if a situation arises, though, he flips the switch and uses his body as “damage control.”

Bloomquist said it’s fun doing what he does and has met a lot of good people, but the biggest thing that’s changed since he started working at a bar is his alcohol intake.

“Bouncing gave me perspective on control. I actually started drinking less than before I worked here,” Bloomquist said.”I began asking myself, ‘when I’m messed up, do I look like that?’ Man—people lose a lot when they’re drunk.”

Adam Duran, owner of Fry Street Tavern, said bouncers carry a large responsibility on their shoulders.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a pretty girl or a dude, if you’re too drunk, you become a liability to us if we let you in here,” Duran said. “They put our liquor license on the line. The [bouncer’s] job on the line. It can even get a bartender arrested. There are a lot of risk factors.”

Duran said Fry Street bouncers, bartenders, owners and police officers are all cogs that make Fry Street work.

“If there’s a problem for one bar, we got a problem for all the   bars,” Duran said.

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Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson

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