Bouncers walk the line

By Christine Cheung

Bouncers are a fickle bunch. They handle the troublemakers, keep minors out and manage the line-up. They decide whether your shoes are too casual, whether you look like your ugly driver’s license and whether you’re good-looking (and female) enough to skip the line-up. Like most people in the service industry, some are nice and some are bitter, some are fair and unfortunately, some are racially prejudiced.

And we let them get away with it.

We all know it happens. I didn’t have to go search very hard on campus to find people who feel they’ve been victims of racial discrimination at clubs. In the half hour I spent talking to people in MacEwan Hall, I found four people who had similar experiences to the one described by Pete Hades, a second-year Economics student.

"We went to the Palace one night and we were all under 21 and over 18," said Hades. "We all got in no problem. [But one of my friends] was of Chinese descent. He [expected] problems so he had brought his birth certificate, his id, his passport–everything. He showed it all to the bouncers and they still didn’t let him in."

Clubs claim they only turn away clientele at the door based on two criteria: age and dress code. They also reserve the right to turn away previous troublemakers. The reality is that bouncers also weed out potential troublemakers, which is where the slippery slope of political incorrectness begins. After all, who, exactly, "looks" like a potential trouble maker?

According to Hades, the bouncer had been assaulted by a Chinese person before at a bar, so he might have a bias against Asians. One Asian guy with spiked hair can look similar to the next because you know how they all look the same (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Is this right? Of course not. But what can we do?

The fact remains that no large clubs received any complaints about racism or discrimination. Instead of doing something about it, people just forget it, go to the next bar and complain the next morning.

"It makes me mad that they use a few people to judge a whole group," said Hades. "It shouldn’t happen, but it does. It’s something we almost have to deal with."
And that’s where he is wrong.

According to Alberta Civil Liberties Association President Steve Junuth, these clubs are not private clubs, they are open to the public.

"[They] can’t deny public services because of race or religion."

Yes, night clubs are sneaky. A former employee of Coconut Joe’s suggested that bars and night clubs can hide behind the safety net of regulations which are used at the discretion of the bouncers. For instance, some bars have strict rules requiring five pieces of ID, but don’t usually enforce them until it is convenient (read: against someone who may "look" like trouble). The problems arise when bouncers are inconsistent, letting some people in with only one piece of id, or some people with runners in while turning away others. As one Cowboys employee put it: "It’s really hard to regulate that kind of thing."

But Junuth insists it isn’t as difficult as it seems to build a case. He says, "the most important thing is if it happens consistently. Your evidence are your witnesses."
Junuth recommends talking to the management and then, if there is no response, complaining to the Human Rights Board.

Don’t let apathy get in the way of your rights. Turning 18 means more than just being able to get into bars and getting hammered. It also means we have to be responsible for our rights. Racism shouldn’t be tolerated, so speak up, or you won’t be heard

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