A Night at the Door With Three Atlanta Bouncers

The eyes and ears of three very different bars tell us about their normal—and not-so-normal—nights on the job.

Atlanta might be the only major American city that accepts a printed piece of paper as proof of age to order a round. The temporary license the DMV issues until a more traditional card arrives is valid, and it’s easy to forge. Yet the brave people guarding Atlanta’s taverns and other booze-slinging establishments know the difference between the real deal and a paper scrap someone tricked out in a Marietta garage. It’s just one of the many talents it takes to make it at the door in the 404.

For this installment of PUNCH’s “A Night at the Door,” which explores what these gatekeepers experience nightly in cities across the country, we started with Dee, who’s posted outside the legendary strip club, Clermont Lounge, known for its cadre of middle-aged performers (who sometimes use their breasts to crush cans of Bud). Less than a mile away, on the rowdy party district of Old Fourth Ward’s Edgewood Avenue, we visited Dillon, who keeps watch over Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium, a dive decked out with religious iconography and known simply as “Church.” Finally, we ended the night in Cabbagetown at a smoky dive called 97 Estoria, stuffed with bikers and burners and staffed by the antithetical, incredibly quiet Billy, who checks IDs.

We asked each to share their craziest stories on the job, favorite after-work beverages and their takes on what makes the place they work at worth a pit stop—or seven. Here is what they had to say.

Atlanta Bouncers

Dee

Age: 43
Workplace: Clermont Lounge


Where are you from?
“Born and raised Atlanta, Georgia. This is my house.”

How long have you worked here?
“Eight years.”

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at the door?
“A guy came in, gave me his ID. I said, ‘Man, this doesn’t look like you.’ He said, ‘I had a face lift.’ I said, ‘You got a face lift, and you didn’t get the ID changed?’ He said, ‘No, no, no; I did this, that and the other—’ I said, ‘That makes no sense to me. So, what’s your name? On the ID?’ [laughs] He said, ‘Oh. I changed my name, also.’”

What makes this place so special?
“The people. It’s diverse. Doctors, lawyers, janitors, your everyday trash man—everybody sits together, everybody enjoys one another. The crazy thing for me is there may be two guys in here and it may the janitor who’s buying the surgeon the drink. People are just people here. You can take off what you do for a living and enjoy yourself when you come into the Clermont Lounge. That’s what this place is all about.”

What’s your favorite post-shift drink?
“In my drinking days, always a Crown Royal. A Crown Royal and a cigar—that’s my thing. Right now, I’m all water. At 43, I gotta try to get myself back into shape, you know? Hydration. This is Georgia, so you know it’s hot down here.”

Atlanta Bouncers

Dillon

Age: 33
Workplace: Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium


Where are you from?
“Easley, South Carolina.”

How long have you worked here?
“Six and a half years.”

What’s the weirdest thing you seen at the door?
“There’s a lot of weird stuff. It’s almost like, ‘What is weird?’ at this point. There used to be a time where the police would basically barricade a whole block [of Edgewood Avenue]… everything closes at once and all the people flood out in the streets. A lot of people aren’t ready to go home, so they pile up on top of cars trapped in these barricades. I’ve seen, like, five people piled on top of these parked cars and the owner is nowhere to be seen.”

What makes this place so special?
“We like to call it an equal opportunity bar. The crowd is a great mix of everyone, and the concept draws people with an open mind.”

What’s your post-shift drink?
“I’ll usually do a Coors Light and a shot of silver tequila. Sometimes I’ll do a Deep Eddy grapefruit vodka into the top of a Coors Light in the summer. It’s a Gris knockoff; I call it a Colorado Kool-Aid. It’s sorta like a summertime shandy.”

How many bars have you worked at?
“Just two. Everything else was blue collar before this—like construction, warehouses, stuff like that.”

Have you worked security anywhere else?
“Not really, but I’ve worked a couple odd jobs. I ran sound for [arts venue] WonderRoot 12 years ago; I showed up to community service for a college credit and they said, ‘Alright, you’re gonna run sound,’ and they handed me a baseball bat and said, ‘This is for if anything else gets out of hand.’”

You don’t have to have a bat here?
“We have two bats here. Luckily I haven’t had to use them. I’ve actually only been in one brawl since I’ve worked here and it was pretty gnarly, but nothing really bad happened. I’ve pulled the bat a couple times, [and] I’ve definitely had to man-handle a couple people out of here. As crazy as it can get on this block, we really don’t have a lot of horror stories.”

Atlanta Bouncers

Billy

Age: 45
Workplace: 97 Estoria


Where are you from?
“Atlanta.”

How long have you worked here?
“About three or four weeks.”

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at the door?
“Not really anything.”

What makes this place special?
“It’s a laid-back atmosphere. People can come in with friends and just have a good time.”

What’s your favorite post-shift drink?
“I don’t drink. Maybe a Coke—something like that?”

How many bars have you worked at?
“This is actually the first one.”

Have you done security for establishments in the past?
“Yes, mostly religious establishments. Some apartment complexes.”

Related Articles

Beca Grimm is a Georgia-based culture writer and editor. She focuses coverage on topics like sex, dating, technology, cannabis and beer. Grimm also co-created and works as editor for feminist cannabis culture zine Dope Girls.