Bouncers more than just muscle for hire
Concordia University/CBC student journalism series explores Montreal's stories after sundown
In a room where the definition of the word "respect" adorns the wall, a man in a spotless uniform instructs new recruits on the intricacies of working in security.
Respect is the motto Dominic Peters lives by.
"Because in security, let's be real, respect [for] your peers is paramount," he tells his fresh-faced students.
During the day, Peters teaches and trains aspiring security agents at GardaWorld in Griffintown. At night, he trades in his white shirt for dark clothing and a bright smile. Dominic Peters is a well-versed bouncer in a city famed for its electric nightlife.
People flock from all over the continent to indulge in Montreal's many bars, nightclubs and strip clubs, and more than occasionally, when alcohol and drugs are factored into the equation, violence occurs.
This is when bouncers become the first line of defence.
According to Statistics Canada, there were close to 11,000 violent crimes recorded by police in bar and restaurants across Canada in 2014. These include 372 incidents of sexual assault and more than 8,000 incidents of physical assault.
'The first appearance does count'
The stereotypical bouncer is big, built and imposing. At a mere five-foot-nine and 160 pounds, Peters gains respect not through brute strength and intimidation but by the power of his positive, welcoming attitude.
"One of the reasons why people hire me is because I've been doing this for so long," he says. "Owners really like that. You know, when you know one out of three people, it gets easier to manage situations."
"Eighty per cent of the job involved with security is customer service. So, it's mostly greeting the clients, smiling, shaking hands, communicating in a clear manner between you and the customer as well as giving a good impression, because the first appearance does count."
Naturally, incidents do occur. Peters says that most of the incidents he deals with are easily manageable. But there is one type he sees most frequently.
"Some men don't always respect women. They enter the bar, circulate through several tables and begin to flirt with women. Sometimes it goes to the extent where a, or several, women feel harassed," says Peters.
"That's when I have to intervene by telling the men to be more discreet."
Despite his noticeable physical differences from his peers, Peters is well-respected by the crowd.
He's been a bouncer for 25 years, working at several Montreal event and establishments including Sapphire — now TRH Bar — and the Montreal Grand Prix.
Peters' origins are Haitian. His mother, a Quebecer, adopted him when he was five years old, and he grew up in a single-parent household.
The business drew him in as a young man.
At first, friends organizing events asked him for help. Nowadays, he "eats and lives for security."
And despite the smiles, Peters can more than handle his own. He learned Tae Kwon Do at a young age.
"I didn't practise it very long," he says.
"Later, I got into Yawara. It's a mix of Karate, Judo and Aikido. It was created during WWII to eliminate an adversary in less than five seconds."
Peters also practises Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The mild-mannered man breaks the mould of the hostile security guard though. This is a man of contradictions.
"I have two beautiful kids, and I have been with my partner for 27 years."
The job comes with its risks, but he never fears for his life. On the contrary, his work has taught him a valuable lesson.
"No matter the situation you're going to find yourself in, you always have to be prepared and you can only trust yourself. It's valuable to have the security mentality in everyday life because it makes you more aware of your surroundings," he said.
Peters comes across as a man who has found his life purpose through his job. He considers himself a service provider to people seeking to have a good time in a great city.
Whatever the situation, you must always be ready.- Bouncer Dominic Peters
"I receive a lot of appreciation and gratitude from clients, out-of-towners and my bosses."
Yet to achieve this level of recognition, security had to become his priority. Underneath the velvet glove is an iron hand.
"Whatever the situation, you must always be ready," he says.
"And to be ready, you can't trust anyone but yourself. You could be the only one able to save everybody else."
He feels people can count on him and says he helps perpetuate the tradition everyday by teaching it to young people.
"And that's the most beautiful thing," he says.
"Even outside work, your training will kick in. You'll look for emergency exits, for fire extinguishers, you'll know your surroundings. If you love your job, everything comes easier."
MTL After Dark is a collaboration between the Department of Journalism at Concordia University and CBC Montreal.
Undergraduate students and graduate-diploma students in a graduate-level multimedia course found and produced original stories on the theme of Montreal after dark.
Working in small teams, they spent the winter semester developing their stories in text, audio, video, photography, infographics, and maps.