'A young man threatened to kill me and my whole family': Calgary nightclub bouncer on what the job is like
Local doorman says violence at city bars escalating at 'alarming rate'
An experienced doorman says the death of Calgary Stampeder Mylan Hicks outside the Marquee Beer Market and Stage highlights the escalating violence at nightclubs in the city.
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Spencer Wallace has been working as a part-time bouncer for seven years and was doing security at the Ten X nightclub on Jan. 10 when a man walked in and opened fire.
On Thursday, Wallace spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener's David Gray about his dangerous job. The following is a slightly edited transcription of their conversation:
Q: What was your reaction when you heard about this shooting at the Marquee?
A: Honestly, I really was not too surprised. Kids are way too prone to violence nowadays.
Q: This is the kind of thing you've seen in your job frequently?
A: A shooting I've only seen once. But an escalation to violence as an immediate response — I've seen far too many times.
Q: You've been at this for a number of years. Have you noticed a change?
A: I have. When I first started, I actually was a doorman at Mount Royal University ... kids were more willing to talk to you. But over the years I've noticed an escalation in people using an immediate response to violence, using weapons has increased ... at an alarming rate.
Every group has their bad egg.- Spencer Wallace, Calgary bouncer
Q: In your work, how often do you come across an altercation where the threat of a gun could very well be real?
A: Luckily the threat of gun is, in actuality, not too frequent. But people will mention using the gun [and] a couple times a month — I'll be threatened to be shot.
Q: A couple of times a month?
A: Yeah, actually, about three weeks ago when asking a young man to leave a bar at 2:30 in the morning — [he] a young man threatened to kill me and my whole family.
Q: How do you diffuse a situation like that?
A: You really can't. If somebody says they're going to do something, I assume they have the means and the will to do it. So I take every threat as seriously as if they are going to act upon that. So if somebody threatens me with a weapon, even if I see it or don't see it, I act as if they have it.
Q: You've dealt with professional athletes before in the various establishments you've worked in. What are they like as patrons?
A: I've dealt with members of the Flames, members of the Oilers, the Eskimos, the Stampeders ... 99 per cent of the time they're fantastic. They know who they are, they're publicly recognizable, they're great to deal with. But just like every group of people — every group has their bad egg and you're going have to deal with them and unfortunately, professional athletes are a little bit harder to deal with 'cause they're bigger than you, they spend their days exercising, working out.
A couple times a month — I'll be threatened to be be shot.- Spencer Wallace, Calgary bouncer
Q: Is the situation more volatile when you're dealing with groups of people in an altercation?
A: Absolutely. If you have one person ... they're reasonable, you can usually de-escalate really quickly. But if you're dealing with a group of people that is a whole different ball of wax. It can become explosive ... they're amping each other up they're like 'Come on man, let's do this! Let's do this!' And you don't have any control over that. Groups of people are way more volatile and explosive than individuals.
Q: Have you been trained to deal with these altercations?
A: Every doorman has a ProTect license from the provincial government. You have to pass training every five years. But, on a personal level, I've taken kick-boxing courses, pressure point and control techniques, self-defense courses.
Q: Given the threats that you've had on your own life. Why do you do this job?
A: I like to help people. I do. And, at the end of the night if somebody's had too much to drink, if they could possibly be a victim — I like to help those people. I like to make sure everyone gets home safe at the end of the night.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener