A bouncer speaks: 'Angry daddies are the worst troublemakers'


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Sep 28, 2023

A bouncer speaks: 'Angry daddies are the worst troublemakers'

Every aspect of night-time entertainment has changed, Vinny says, for better and

Every aspect of night-time entertainment has changed, Vinny says, for better and for worse. File picture: Pexels

Vinny* the doorman remembers a night back in 2006 when a solicitor "totally out of his mind" on drugs tried to get past him into his nightclub.

"He just stuck his nose into a bag of cocaine and sniffed it. I wouldn't let him in. I told him the next time he comes, if he's the same way again, he won't be admitted either," he recalls. It was the height of the Celtic Tiger, the boomiest of boom times when, at least in Vinny's experience, only "a certain class of people" in Ireland snorted cocaine.

It's not as bad as that today. It's worse. Nowadays, according to Vinny, Class A drug use is "right across the board", in all walks of life, in every bar, in every village in the country. Almost two decades on, Vinny is still on the doors — not because he needs to, he hastens to add, but because he genuinely loves the job — and can see the changes time has wrought.

Every aspect of night-time entertainment has changed, he says, for better and for worse. People are more willing to challenge any form of discrimination, real or perceived, leading to a culture of what he calls "easy money" through litigation.

With last week's announcement that Ireland is officially at full employment of 3.8%, we are rolling in cash from what Vinny can see every weekend, still spending our lockdown savings on drink and drugs.

He said: "Since everything opened up again, you see people that have an awful lot more money. I certainly have, so if I, who never saves, have money, I can imagine why people are spending money on drugs.

Personally, I think it's like going back to the Celtic Tiger. It's in every village. It is worse now than it's ever been. It's not just one sphere of society. It's right across the board in many walks of life or occupations. It's so easily got.

He says a small pack of cocaine is about €100. Out of that, you’ll get "a few snorts out of it, probably one line or two half lines. Whether it goes to €200 a gram or a bag, whatever it is, you will get people to pay it," he tells the Irish Examiner in the Mid-West town he lives and works in.

"It's just routine now to have drugs on a night out. I know people who wouldn't go out if they didn't have a bag of cocaine," he said. "Or they’d go out but have maybe two lines before they go."

Twenty years ago, the drug of choice for those who could afford it was cocaine, and that still holds true today, with the addition of amphetamines. "It's all pills. It's 50:50 cocaine-amphetamines," he said. Nine times out of 10 any confiscation Vinny makes is for cocaine, at least "once or twice a night" in the same venue.

Vinny can't control what people take before they pass his door, but once they’re inside, he watches them like a hawk. And what does he see? It's not immediately obvious if someone has taken cocaine when they enter a nightclub. They’re guarded and conscious of looking normal, but when Vinny sees the same people in an hour's time, their demeanour gives them away.

The signs are there. They’re so happy. It doesn't matter how much drink you’ve taken, that doesn't happen.

"You just know by their eyes, they’re completely glazed over if they’re on drugs, any sort of drugs, they’re very glassy. So you keep an eye on them," he said.

Other red flags include two people going to the bathroom together and sharing a cubicle. Vinny will follow them in and if he sees four feet under the door, he’ll give a knock and put his phone above the door, camera on, which is connected to his smart watch. He can then see from his watch if clients are taking drugs on the other side of the door.

"You hear them sniffing and snorting," he said. "I know it's an invasion of privacy, but you have to.

"There could be a genuine reason why two people are in a cubicle, but conversely, if they are doing cocaine, you ask them to empty their pockets. If they refuse, you lead them away on suspicion of doing drugs. If we find any, we confiscate automatically."

What reactions does he get?

"Sometimes they’re fine and sometimes they’re a bit aggressive. Sometimes you will get trouble, and then the guards have to be involved."

All confiscated drugs are handed in to the duty manager and either disposed down the toilet or "thrown into the river" at the end of each night.

Nightclub owners have been hampered in their efforts to stamp out cocaine use on their premises. Traditionally they would have used WD40 or baby oil on the tops of toilet cisterns or any flat surface. Once cocaine touches either product, it dissolves instantly. A case where a patron successfully sued after his lung was burnt by inhaling WD40 however, has called a halt to that practice.

Instead, Vinny wears black gloves and runs his fingers along surfaces regularly to check for any white powder, particularly — especially — if patrons include a hen or stag party. Searches of handbags, pockets, and wallets yield a variety of pills, including ecstasy. The cocaine comes in little sealed bags and little black wraps.

They have found partygoers carrying several thousand euro in cash. Vinny found one young student with a €5,000 "ball of cash" in his bulging wallet. The student was adamant the money was his wages. He was searched, "a couple of pills" were found on him, so the Gardaí were called. He was taken down to the station but later released when the gardaí had to accept the cash was the man's wages.

"I work two jobs, I don't have that kind of cash," mused Vinny.

Another night, a man had €2,000 on his person along with €8,000 worth of drugs. When he heard the Gardaí were on their way, he began offering bribes to Vinny and his colleagues to let him go, first €50 then €100. Drug users range in age from 18 up to 50 years and beyond. Even DJs have to be searched now since a DJ collapsed after taking ketamine.

Some of the most sinister acts Vinny has witnessed involved spiking drinks. Each time it was a man who spiked a woman's drink. Only one was caught on the venue's CCTV system. When he was approached by security, he denied it. The cameras said otherwise though, and he was arrested by Gardaí. On another occasion, the man had already left the venue and was, disturbingly, skulking in the street outside waiting for his victim to emerge.

Horror stories of girls being injected with needles have reached his ears, but so far hasn't posed much of a threat. It happens when a disposable syringe is stuck into an exposed shoulder. Anything could be inside: "Anything can be liquified, Rohypnol, ketamine, anything."

"A girl came over once saying she had been needled, so we just took her outside and watched her for an hour to make sure she didn't deteriorate," he said.

Vinny and his fellow doormen get no grief from drug dealers — who greet them by name as they stroll past — "because they want to remain hidden". The biggest crime boss in the region "wouldn't be stupid enough" to ask him to get in.

"He’d often walk by us but he’d keep going," said Vinny. "He knows where he can get in."

It's the gangland foot soldiers who are the most brazen, often cycling past and making gun signs to the doormen. While they laugh it off, they never walk to their cars alone after work at 3am.

Those who give security staff the most grief are what could be described as the "angry Daddies". They’re aged 45-55 years, are mortgaged, married, go on a stag weekend, seldom get out on their own, and can't hold their drink like they used to.

"When they do, they think they’re 21-year-olds. They want to go on the drink or drugs and then at the end of the night they have to go fighting, whether it's with us or someone else.

"Then it's ‘you will not tell me what to do. Do you know who I am? How dare you touch my son and my nephew. My son doesn't take drugs'," he said, imitating their outrage.

"It's angry confrontation, that's what they want. They’re the biggest troublemakers," he sighed.

Simon Harris, while acting justice minister on May 17, told the Dáil that An Garda Síochána "continues to target those involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs through Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing across the country".

He insisted that The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) has had "significant, sustained success in disrupting the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups with over €302m worth of drugs seized in the period of 2016 to Q1 2023."

Despite this apparent "success" of State agencies, Vinny doesn't see our appetite for hard drugs abating any time soon.

"They’re trying to stamp it out, policing it, monitoring it, confiscating it — and nobody seems to give a damn," he said. "Like, it just doesn't put them off. If they lose a package, they’re not worried. They just get more.

"I honestly think it's because of too much money. I can't see it stopping any time soon. The guards are doing their best, but it's like everything else. If somebody wants it bad enough, they’re doing to get it, regardless of what price it is. The public is a dangerous animal."

*Vinny's name has been changed to protect his identity

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