By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
The bouncer industry has become a bit more regulated since the days of the Barbary Coast, where legend has it that unwitting patrons who wandered into "Shanghai" Kelly's tavern on the waterfront would be served opium-laced beer, dropped through a trapdoor into a waiting boat, and sold as crew members to ships bound for the Orient.
The state legislature cracked down on bouncers in 2005, requiring in-house security to get a state-licensed "guard card" and a criminal background check. Yet some in the industry say many clubs still don't care who's doing security. Personal injury attorney Rob Cartwright says he rejects a bouncer-gone-wild case every two months. "It's very, very tough to take the bars on in this thing, because they say they [the victims] were drunk and had it coming, and that's often not the case," he says. "People are just out having a good time and drinking and they end up in the hospital."
Cartwright is representing James Leuschner, who alleges that at a concert at Slim's in October 2007, bouncer Devin Williams grabbed him by the throat and knocked him to the floor with a fist with a flashlight in it (or the flashlight itself), fracturing a bone in his eye socket. Cartwright says the bouncer then picked up Leuschner and threw him down a flight of stairs. Williams pleaded guilty to one felony count of grievous bodily injury, though that wasn't the first mark on his rap sheet: Slim's apparently hadn't checked to see that Williams had previous felonies in Alameda County and San Francisco when the club hired him five months prior.
333 11th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: South of Market
But Slim's attorney, Michael Bradley, says that while background checks are not an industry standard, he stresses that it doesn't matter whether Williams was a felon, since he says the bouncer acted in a "professional" manner escorting a resisting Leuschner to the door, but because of the tumult, the two tumbled down the stairs and the concertgoer hit his face on the doorframe. Bradley explains Williams' guilty plea in the related criminal case, saying the bouncer had no money to post bail and pleaded guilty only to get out of jail.
You might expect some rowdiness at a concert venue, but at Harry Denton's Starlight Room, the iconic San Francisco lounge/bar at the top of the St. Francis Drake Hotel? According to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court, a violent fracas broke out in the early hours on or around July 30, 2006, when a bouncer told William O'Hara it was time to leave. O'Hara's attorney, Christopher Viadro, says all hell broke loose when O'Hara said he just wanted to finish his drink. Another bouncer dragged O'Hara out, while another punched him in the face and pushed him into an elevator where two bouncers were already beating another patron. They shook O'Hara until he began spitting up blood. O'Hara ended up in a halo screwed into his skull because of a compression fracture in his neck, Viadro says. The Starlight Room and its attorney, Steven Rodriguez, denied comment due to pending litigation. O'Hara is seeking unspecified damages against the bar for battery, infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring.
Of course, security is a thankless job, and you hear about it only when something goes awry. As Gary Krieger, a bouncer in the city for 20 years, puts it: "You know how you know you have a good security crew? It seems like you don't need 'em."