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Bouncers handling bar security

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | MAY 06, 2009 7:30 AM

In the early morning hours of April 26, Iowa City police rushed, lights flashing and sirens blaring, toward a fight reportedly involving more than 10 people at the Summit.

As officers headed toward the bar, 10 S. Clinton St., dispatchers repeatedly called for more units at 3rd Base Bar, 111 E. College St.

Iowa City police responded to five reports of fights or assaults at downtown bars that weekend, but police and bouncers agree only the more serious situations require police intervention.

“Police shouldn’t routinely act as security for any establishment,” Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said. “As a police officer, I have some expectation that [bar employees] will handle problems in the bar.”

Bar staff members should address problems themselves if they are able to, Kelsay said. But if the confrontation becomes too severe for bouncers to deal with alone — such as when a person threatens the bouncer or refuses to leave — employees should call the police. Bar employees should act to protect themselves and other customers, Kelsay said.

“Our first priority is to get the people involved out of the bar to prevent them from harming others,” said Grant Gillon, a UI freshman who works at the Union Bar, 121 E. College St.

Gillon said bouncers call the police if the altercation involves numerous individuals or results in injuries. Once outside the bar, Union employees will hold the combatants until police arrive.

Usually Union staff members run into two or three situations requiring bouncers to remove people each weekend, he said.

Kevin Caiafa, a bouncer at the Et Cetera, 118 S. Dubuque St., said employees “break it up, then kick them out.”

The bouncers make sure the people involved in the altercation leave in opposite directions before returning inside, the UI freshman said.

“There’s no set policy. It’s based on what we see,” he said. “We use our judgment.”

Kelsay said bars should be using different approaches, noting there are a variety of ways to deal with altercations — including having one or both people leave, releasing them at different times, or putting them out different doors.

Most bars in the downtown area deal with violence adequately, Kelsay said, and police don’t want a situation where bars become hesitant to call police when necessary.

“I’m reluctant to say a cookie-cutter approach,” he said. “You’re dealing with escalated emotions and individual safety.”


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