Can you call off security? Clubs’ bouncer problem
In an effort to be seen doing something about alcohol-related violence in Melbourne, the Victorian Government is toughening up its enforcement of laws around security staff for venues.
Music venues around Melbourne are getting hounded by a group of almost 50 inspectors to enforce a 10-year-old law that says any live music venue needs at least two security guards for anything under 100 people.
While, superficially, this is the private venue equivalent for demands of “more cops on the beat”, the problem with private security is that they’re not cops and often they can cause more problems than they solve.
For those who don’t know Victoria, more than any other state, is attempting to come to grips with unacceptable levels of alcohol-fuelled violence on the streets and in its venues.
The State Premier John Brumby has made a point of getting out and about on the streets with words like “cracking down” and “zero tolerance” being the order of the day among Government and Opposition.
This is not to belittle the genuine need for there to be something done about drunken violence.
The issue is not some false moral panic confected by bored newspapers toeing along reactive politicians in their wake. It is real and it is actually ending in the pointless deaths of many, especially younger people.
But in situations like this the desire to be seen as taking some sort of action can trump the logic of the measures being introduced.
The notion that anything from 10 to 100 people are made inherently safer by the presence of two security guards is a good example of this kind of specious reasoning.
You need only to have gone down to your local pub to have seen situations in which the venue’s security have exacerbated rather than stopped violence.
The most famous example of this in recent years is the death of former Australian Cricketer David Hookes after being punched outside the Beaconsfield Hotel in St Kilda by bouncer Dravko Micevic
The exact circumstances around Hookes’ death are still unclear, with Micevic being acquitted of his manslaughter, but it is pretty clear that it started with the kind of bouncer-versus-drunk-punter, ego-driven tit-for-tat that we’ve all seen or been party to.
The psychology of a bouncer getting involved in a situation that does not warrant their intervention is complex and can range from a complete misunderstanding of what’s actually going on around them to being bored with their night.
I’ve seen my own brother violently evicted from multiple venues after bouncers took one look at him and decided he was off his face despite his protestations that he suffers from an eye condition that, among other things, makes him look permanently stoned or very pissed.
Venues of course can’t predict when they might need security and those that know they need it have it. It doesn’t help their reputation with police or punters not to have enough bouncers around.
The Victorian laws would only apply to bars open after 1am with live or amplified music following a study that found these were among major risk factors in there being violence at the venue.
Small bars are now in the invidious situation of facing bankruptcy with having to spend $500 a night on security or face thousands of dollars in fines if the new squad of inspectors finds them not complying.
This will also be coupled with more expensive liquor licensing laws for venues that have live music and stay open late.
This would effect not only music bars but bowling and ethnic clubs putting on bands.
What the crackdown doesn’t take into account is the individual record of any of the pubs and whether they’re in areas with a history of violence. Put simply if a lot of bars have been safe venues while not obeying the regulations, why can’t they continue to be?
Here you do enter the dangerous territory of venue profiling: whereby funky Fitzroy venue complains that it shouldn’t be subject to the same laws to host its clientele of students studying sustainability as the outer suburb White Night Club (doesn’t really exist) with a casualty list only marginally shorter than that of Australia’s in the Vietnam War.
Well so be it. We’re faced with the absurdity of small venues no longer being able to have live music because they must have two bouncers to protect the audience in the unlikely event the argument over whether Chet Baker or Charlie Parker was the better jazz man gets violent.
As the owner of one prominent Melbourne pub venue told me yesterday: “We’ve never had security and we’ve never had a problem in the five years I’ve owned this place.”
The attack to cause the greatest public outcry in recent times was the bashing of 19-year-old Luke Adams.
Adams was left in a coma after he was bashed and placed in a sleeper hold until he collapsed, smashing his head on the floor of the Prahran Hungry Jacks.
But rest assured the three men who have been charged with the assault - Konstantinos Kontoklotsis, 32, Nathan Karazisis, 24, and Mark Bogtstra, 21 - were all night club bouncers.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…